Archive for January, 2011

POSCO non-approval approval; Odisha government should do the right thing

CENTER & ODISHA, ENVIRONMENT, Jagatsinghpur, POSCO, Steel Comments Off on POSCO non-approval approval; Odisha government should do the right thing

Update 2: The following excerpt from a report in Telegraph elaborates on the point where this may head to the courts.

Giving conditional clearance to the project, the Union environment and forests ministry had yesterday asked the state for an assurance that no one was so entitled. At stake is the final approval for the diversion of 1,253 hectares of forestland for the steel plant and its captive port.

Jagatsinghpur collector Narayan Jena today argued that no one met the criteria under which they could legitimately stake claim to any part of the forestland. This was challenged by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which is resisting the project.

Under the 2006 law, tribals can claim rights over forestland on which they are currently living or dependent for livelihood. According to the state government, no tribal lives in the project area.

However, the 2006 law also allows Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) to claim forest rights provided they satisfy three criteria. The claimants must:

• Have lived on the forestland for 75 years prior to December 13, 2005;

• Have been in occupation of the land before December 13, 2005;

• Be dependent on the forestland for their “bona fide” livelihood needs.

Collector Jena declined comment on the Union ministry’s riders since the official order is yet to be received, but tried to clear the air on the matter of forest rights.

He said the project area had been notified as protected forest area only in 1961 — so technically, no OTFD could claim to have lived in a “forest” there for 75 years. “Had there been tribals in the area, the situation would have been different. But no OTFD can claim such benefits because its forest status does not go back 75 years,” he said.

He conceded that the area was part of Burdwan estate before 1952, when there were reserve forests in Jatadhari and Bhuyanpal, which are part of the project area. But he insisted that the area was completely uninhabited now.

However, the Union tribal ministry says that claimants under the OTFD category do not have to prove they live on the forestland but only that they depend on it for their “bona fide” livelihood needs.

Jena countered this by alleging that claimants to land in the project area were encroachers, implying their claims about dependence for livelihood would be untenable.

Update: Following is from an editorial in Economic Times. I am in agreement with the observations there.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has passed the Posco buck, nominally to the government of Orissa but, in reality, to the courts. His final clearance of the project depends on a categorical assertion by the government of Orissa that there are no ‘other traditional forest dwellers’ among those whose land would be diverted for the project. … Now, if the government of Orissa does provide the Centre with the categorical assertion that it has sought on the nature of the people who would be displaced, it is inevitable that the villagers would go to court.

Whether the affected villagers are indeed people whom the Forest Rights Act seeks to protect is a matter of fact that would then be left to the courts to verify, beyond final challenge in the Supreme Court. This will take time. But a lengthy pilgrimage through the shrines of graded sanctity of Indian legality is not the only future open to Posco. The company can make a fresh, larger-hearted and better funded effort to win over the villagers whose lives and livelihoods would be disrupted by the project than the current one rejected by the villagers. People need certainty about their future incomes and occupations, and these would need to be superior to what they are asked to give up. This would not take much, given how the villagers eke out a living. But it does call for imagination, empathy and a willingness to engage directly with the villagers and not just with political and bureaucratic powerbrokers.

The state has to show its earnestness. At the same time, companies and their projects must respect, not bend, the people of India and their laws. The Posco decision sets the stage for companies to show how they are inclined.

While the news media is buzz with the conditional approval of POSCO by the environment ministry, the interview with NAC Chairperson NC Saxena elaborates on the nuance behind the approval. While I am not conversant with the detailed aspects of the law here, I hope the Odisha government follows the law of the land to the dot and makes sure that displaced as well as project affected people are adequately and properly compensated. At the same I hope people and groups who blindly oppose this focus their attention towards helping the project affected and displaced people.

Following are excerpts from a CNBC-TV18 interview of NC Saxena which spells out the nuances behind the non-approval approval.

Korean steel giant POSCO has welcomed the conditional approval, which comes three years after the plant was first envisaged. It says it will maintain 25% of the area allocated for the steel plant as green cover. As per the ministry’s conditions, POSCO says it will earmark 2% of its net India profits for its corporate social responsibility drive. It will also work on creating sustainable livelihood options for people affected by the project. POSCO adds that it plans to ensure conservation of land and marine environment at the site. However, member of the National Advisory Council or NAC, NC Saxena has said that the order should not be read as a clearance. Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Saxena said the Orissa government should recognise the rights of the people. The Orissa government’s rehabilitation package is very weak, he said. He however added that the package was not the concern of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

…Q: Finally a clearance being given to POSCO by the ministry of environment but you and your panel had said that there were several violations of the forest rights act by the Orissa government while the land acquisition had actually taken place. Now if I look at the order that’s been put out by the ministry of environment it clearly says that the final approval for diversion of 1253 hectares of forest land for the POSCO project would be granted as soon as there is an assurance from the state government to the ministry of finance that there is indeed no violation as far as other traditional forest dweller rights are concerned, how are you reading this?

A: Infact I don’t think it can be read as a clearance because if you see the order very carefully it very clearly says that there are conditions to be satisfied. For instance it says that there are 3 conditions. People have to be living there for the last three generations, people have to be in occupation since December 2005 and also they should depend on forest lands. Orissa government’s case was that occupation is also necessary for 3 generations which is not true.

So I am very happy that the minister has clarified that it is only living which is there for 3 generations. Minister has also clarified that these people who are forest dwellers they don’t have to claim their rights, its for the state government to recognize their rights, so therefore Orissa government if it is to stick to its own records would find it very difficult to declare that none of these condition are satisfied and I am sure that people will get justice.

Q: … so then how does one actually progress from here because the riders are going to be very difficult for the Orissa government to comply with?

A: The Orissa government should first of all recognize the rights of these people and grant the rights under the forest rights act, then they can acquire the land under the land acquisition law. I do not know why Orissa government is not willing to talk to the people. The other point is Orissa governments rehabilitation package is very weak.

They recognize rehabilitation only for those who are displaced. It should also recognize those who are affected so therefore a large number of people are losing their livelihoods, their incomes are being affected and they should also be compensated. Once you do that, if my income is Rs 5000 a month and Orissa government says I will give you Rs 10000 I am sure I will be very happy so that’s how Orissa government should deal with resentment.

Q: … this doesn’t really spell out what more needs to be done to strengthen the rehabilitation package?

A: Rehabilitation package is not the concern of the Ministry of Environment and Forest and therefore the minister has rightly not dealt with that issue but that is certainly an issue which the Orissa government and also the Ministry of Tribal affairs should be concerned with.

The ministries concern, the MoEF’s concern was only with the forest conservation act and the environmental protection act and therefore they have not commented but of you read Meena Gupta’s report and also the 3 members report they have dealt with this question in great detail and they have suggested how to strengthen and augment the whole rehabilitation package.

Q: … hence the uncertainty continues?

A: Infact yes I would say that uncertainty does not continue. Orissa government has been given a very clear order and they should comply with it …

So Orissa government should go ahead recognize their forest rights and then only think of further action. So therefore I think a very clear order has been given and it can be complied with. The project can also be completed provided Orissa government has a good rehabilitation package and observes all the laws specially the Forest Rights Act.

BJD structure allows whistle blowers in Odisha

ADMINISTRATION & REPs, Chief Minister's actions, Odisha MLAs Comments Off on BJD structure allows whistle blowers in Odisha

Following is an excerpt from an article in

The multi-crore mining scam would not have come to the light had Samir Das, a first timer from Nimapara Assembly constituency, questioned the theft of minerals from Ram Bahadur Thakur mines. 

His starred question exposed a major scam that was going on in the state mining sector for quite few years. 

The scam put the Naveen Patnaik Government in the most difficult time. 

The Government become defensive and now struggling to avoid a CBI probe into the scam. 

Before the dust settled, the coal scam surfaced putting in the dock two Ministers — Urban Development Minister Badri Narayan Patra and School and Mass Education Minister Pratap Jena. 

Coal worth crores of rupees have been allotted in favour companies and firms those do not exist at all, alleged both BJP and Congress Lawmakers. 

And this time round, senior BJD Lawmaker Kalpataru Das first to expose the scam. 

Mr. Das, known for his deep going instinct, gave a detailed write up as to how OSIC under Mr. Patra favoured these firms. 

As if that was not enough, Mr.Das along with Debasis Nayak, a former BJD Minister, have brought into light the Rs 3000 crore Dal scam which has rocked the State Government. 

Mr.Nayak in a letter to Chief Minister and copy to the Director Vigilance gave out the modus operandi of the Dal Scam. 

Fingers have been raised against the Women & Child Welfare Minister, Pramila Mallik, for the massive irregularities in the purchase of Arhar Dal for Mid-day Meal Scheme (MDM)and Special Nutrition Programme (SNP). 

In all these case Congress and BJP failed to expose the scam, however when the BJD Lawmakers lifted the lid of these frauds and scandals, they grabbed the lime light of Media.

While the article suggests that this is BJD shooting on its own foot, I understand it in a different way:

  1. The CM is not involved in these scams. (That is because, he is the supremo in the party, and if he was involved, no one would dare to expose these scams.)
  2. The party members have the freedom to expose scams. I.e., they are not told to hide scams for the interest of the party. This is refreshing and healthy. Compare this to the 2G scam where the UPA government tolerated corruption in the name of coalition government.
  3. Sure this implies that there is some infighting in the party. I think that is better than all being together and hiding each other’s role in scams.
  4. This also means that it is known to the rank and file that the CM (the supremo) will not tolerate corruption and will not reprimand anyone who brings that to his notice. Only when that is known would people come out against their own party and expose corruption by other members.

ECOR earnings up; IR’s earnings down

ECOR, Railway Budget 2011, Railways 1 Comment »

Following is from a report in Pioneer.

East Coast Railway (ECoR) GM Arvind Kumar Vohra …

He informed about the achievements made by the ECoR during the last three quarters both at the freight and passenger fronts. During the period, ECoR has earned `6140.72 crore, 19.77 per cent more than the corresponding period of last year.

It has carried 79.98 MT of freight traffic, 4.91 per cent more as compared to the corresponding period of last year while 59.13 million passengers have been carried which is 12.03 per cent more than the corresponding period of last year.

The above is only about the earnings and not about profits. There is no data on that yet. However, Indian Railways as a whole has reduced earnings and may make a loss the last year. Following is from a report in Indian Express.

The Indian Railways’ great “turnaround story”, which was making waves in business schools till a few months back, now appears headed towards an ignominious end. A sharp decline in earnings and a serious escalation in expenditures are threatening to push India’s transport behemoth to near-bankruptcy.

… the Railways now has a net deficit of around Rs 2,500 crore. “While our expenditure has gone up by almost Rs 1,330 crore, our earnings are down by Rs 1,142 crore,” says a Railway Board official.

Konark in youtube

Konark, Sites in and around Bhubaneswar Comments Off on Konark in youtube

(Thanks to Odisha Tourism in Facebook for the pointer.)

The proposed Kra canal and Odisha

Kra Canal (proposed), National Waterway 5 Comments Off on The proposed Kra canal and Odisha

Jagmohan Swain has been talking about this in facebook for a long time. I agree with him. If and when the Kra canal opens it will have a huge huge positive effect on Odisha as Odisha ports will be the closest way to reach India for ships coming from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, etc. That may be the part of the reason there is so much clamoring for making new ports in coastal Odisha. Following is a picture from Jagmohan’s facebook page.

Following is from a report on the current status of the proposed Kra canal. (Thanks again to Jagmohan for the pointer.)

The Kra Canal Project, which would link the South China Sea directly to the Indian Ocean by cutting across the Thai isthmus, has shown recent signs of being reactivated given the economic benefits it would bring to the region as well as the continuing problems with piracy in the Straits of Malacca and the current route for trade to and from India and South–East Asia to China.

The canal, which was first recognized as a potential for boosting trade in 1677, would have the same impact on South-East Asia as the Panama and Suez Canals have had elsewhere. The canal would need to traverse a length of only 44 kilometers at the narrowest point of the Thai peninsula, however with rocky land of up to 75 meters above sea level; the engineering and labor requirements would be huge.

China, not surprisingly, has offered to lend considerable assistance to the development of the project, which was tentatively approved by the Thai Senate in 2007. The project is currently stalled due to “environmental concerns”, however, this is largely interpreted as meaning political wrangling over the project, which has plenty of detractors. Two major voices of dissent are the Singapore Government, who would stand to lose their preeminent position as a shipping hub for South-East Asia, and the previous Bush administration in the United States, who’s then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld showed concern about the plan amidst growing concern of developing Chinese influence in the region.

The cost of the project is estimated at US$20 billion, and would take ten years to complete, with some 30,000 workers being involved. The project would also compliment the Highway 44 overland route, which links the West and East coasts of Thailand, and has currently been stalled with some 50 kilometers to go at either end – a victim of the recent political turmoil in Thailand. However, with domestic politics apparently heading for smoother waters and the previous Bush regime now out of the way, the Kra Canal project is certain to come back into public view, and with South-East nations keen to develop trade with China, the project looks certain to come back to the drawing board.

Note that in ten years the proposed national waterway 5 — passing through Odisha connecting coastal Odisha to Kolkata and up north through national waterway 1 — would also be ready making it possible to connect a huge part of India to the above mentioned asian countries through waterways.

Odisha’s request for the 2011-12 Railways Budget

Railway Budget 2011 2 Comments »

Following is from a report in Business Standard.

In the run up to the Railway Budget for 2011-12, the Orissa government has requested the Ministry of Railways to sanction Rs 2085 crore for the state in the current financial year …

The state government has sought Rs 350 crore for the Khurda Road-Bolangir rail link (289 km), Rs 250 crore for the Paradeep-Haridaspur rail link (82 km), Rs 150 crore each for the Angul-Duburi-Sukinda Road rail line (90 km) and Talcher-Bimalagarh (154 km) rail line and Rs 60 crore for the Lanjigarh Road-Junagarh rail link (56 km).

For gauge conversion, the state has sought Rs 20 crore for the 89-km Rupsa-Bangriposi and Rs 30 crore for the 90-km Nuapada-Gunupur.

Similarly, for doubling projects, the state government has requested the Ministry of Railways to allot Rs 760 crore. Presently, 20 doubling projects are under execution in order to further augment line capacity. Allocation of funds for the second bridge on Kathajori and Kauakhai and Haridaspur-Jakhapura (third line) needs to be sharply increased.

The proposals for new doubling include Rayagada-Koraput rail link and patch doubling of Kottavalasa-Kirandul line. The state government has requested the Ministry of Railways to sanction doubling of this rail link which connects the port city of Visakhapatanam with the iron ore rich area of Kirandul.

For undertaking new electrification works, the state has sought Rs 100 crore from the Ministry of Railways in 2011-12. It has also requested the ministry to sanction funds for the development of multi modal logistics parks and container freight stations at Kalinga Nagar, Angul, Jharsuguda, Rourkela and Choudwar.

The Railways ministry has been requested to sanction some new rail links in 2011-12. These include Rupsa-Burhamura-Chakulia (35 km), Nuapada-Gunupur-Theruvali (79 km), Banspani-Barbil (15 km), Bhadrachalam Raod-Malkangiri-Jeypore-Junagarh-Lanjigarh Road-Talcher-Bimlagarh, Bargarh-Nuapada via Padampur (120 km), Talcher-Gopalpur (245 km), Puri-Konark (35 km), Rupsa-Bangriposi-Gorumahisani (35 km), Badampahar-Keonjhar (70 km), Berhampur-Phulbani (169.8 km) and Khurda Road-Rajathgarh (59 km).

The Orissa government has proposed to set up a dedicated industrial corridor in the Meramandali-Angul-Talcher-Chhendipada belt linking the coal mines, power generating units and steel plants.

This proposed corridor, to be co-habited by multiple users, is estimated to cost Rs 2192 crore. The state government has requested the Railways ministry to finalize the policy to construct such dedicated rail corridors in coal and mineral bearing areas.

The state has also given proposal for introduction of 16 new trains. This includes Duronto type super fast trains between Bhubaneswar-Mumbai, Puri-jaipur, Bhubaneswar-Pune, Bhubaneswar-Bangalore and Puri-Surat. It has also presented proposal for introduction of a super fast express between Visakhapatanam and Allahabad, express train between Koraput and Visakhapatanam, express train from Titlagarh to Bhubaneswar via Rayagada, express train from Keonjhar to Howrah, express train from Barbil to Visakhaptanam, super fast express from Rourkela to New Delhi, inter-city express between Puri and Tata via Keonjhar, express train between Berhampur and Rourkela, direct train between Bhubaneswar and Kalka, express train service between Jagdalpur and Kolkata, inter-city express between Berhampur and Puri and passenger train services between Barbil and Puri as well as from Rayagada to Bolangir.

Moreover, the state has sought Rs 25 crore for five new coaching terminals and Rs 50 crore for seven ‘Adarsh’ stations (model stations) and two multi-functional complexes.

Work on five NH projects in Odisha – Bhubaneswar-Puri, Bhubaneswar-Sambalpur, Bhubaneswar-Chandikhole, Sambalpur-Bargarh and Remudi-Rajamunda (NH-215) to begin in February 2011

Angul, Bargarh, Bhubaneswar- Cuttack- Puri, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack- Kalinganagar, Bhubaneswar-Puri, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Jajpur, Khordha, National Highways, NH 215 (348 Kms: NH-5@Panikoli - Anandapur - Kendujhargarh -Rajamundra @NH-23), NH 5 (488 kms: NH No.6 in Jharkhand - Baripada - Baleshwar - Bhadrakh - Cuttack - Bhubaneswar - Khordha - Brahmapur - upto Andhra Pradesh Border), Puri, Sambalpur, Sambalpur-Burla-Jharsuguda 4 Comments »

Following is an excerpt from a report in Business Standard.

The work on five major National Highway (NH) projects in the state- Bhubaneswar-Puri, Bhubaneswar-Sambalpur, Bhubaneswar-Chandikhole, Sambalpur-Bargarh and Remudi-Rajamunda (NH-215) will begin in February 2011. While work on four-laning of the Bhubaneswar-Puri NH is expected to be completed soon, the remaining projects will be commissioned within three years."The work on these NH projects will commence in February 2011 and the projects are expected to be commissioned within three years. The work is being taken up on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode and the cost assessment will be made by NHAI. …

While work will be taken up for four-laning of Bhubaneswar-Puri (60 km) and Sambalpur-Bargarh (88-km) NHs, the Bhubaneswar-Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar-Chandikhole (62 km) highways will be six laned. As per the thumb rule Rs 4 crore will be spent per km on building these highways.

Chilika Dhaba near Barkul Pantha Nivas rated as the best dhaba by NDTV Goodtimes Food award 2010

Chilika, Circuit: Bhubaneswar-Chilika-Puri, Odia/Odisha cuisine 3 Comments »

Thanks to Nilachakra for the pointer. The wsj blog at mentions this and has this to say:

Chilika Dhaba, Barkul, NH5, Orissa: This is apparently “Rocky’s favorite dhaba in the world.” It’s next to the Chilika lake and serves great seafood, the writers say. They especially recommend the chilli prawns and giant crab.

See pictures of the huge crabs at and

The link has the following video.

AMG India signs Sniti Mishra on its Artiste Roster for Exclusive management.

Odia music, Odisha personalities 4 Comments »

(Thanks to Satya babu for the pointer.)

Following is from

AMG India is proud to announce having signed on one of the brightest young singers SNITI MISHRA on its Artiste Roster for Exclusive management.

On the Dec 25th, ’10 grand finale on Zee TV, Sniti was chosen as the winner of the ‘Most Remarkable Voice’ award at the recently concluded SaReGaMaPa Singing Superstar. With her strong Indian classical training and her hauntingly unique voice, Sniti had wowed not only a worldwide TV audience but also the mentors and eminent guests on the program, including AR Rehman, Mahesh Bhatt, Vishal Bhardwaj, Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Some even compared her vocal uniqueness to that of legends such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Janis Joplin.

The “SNITI MISHRA – Classically Unplugged” concert is already mesmerizing audiences worldwide, with it’s unique presentation, where Sniti and her young Acoustic band present Classics, both old and new, in a ‘simply-fresh’ style of their own.

Her typical set-list includes her own unique version of :

Iktara (Film: Wake Up Sid), Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha (Film: Anpadh), Sapnon Se Bhare Naina (Luck By Chance), Mora Saiyan (Band: Fuzon), Masakkali (Delhi 6), Chandni Raatein (Noorjahan), Mitwaa (Film: Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna), Jiya Jale (Dil Se), In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke (Umrao Jaan), Yeh Haunsla (Dor), Sajnaa Tere Bin Jiya Mora (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan), Ay Hairathe Aashiqui (Film: Guru)

Sniti has starred in extremely popular live shows for in several Indian cities , where she has continued to use her classical training to popularize traditional music as well as to innovate musically.

With this latest addition to it’s Artiste Roster, Sniti Mishra replaces popstar Neha Bhasin, who was successfully managed by AMG for almost 6 years, helping her become into a ‘brand’ that today she has become. This is continuing with AMG’s commitment to nurturing upcoming talent !

Demand for an ECOR rail division in Rourkela grows

Baripada - Bangiriposi (under constr.), Bhadrakh - Dhamara (port conn. planned), Buramara - Chakulia, CKP ... Bhalulata - Rourkela - Jharsuguda Jn - Daghora , ECOR, Jaleshwar-Digha, Rourkela - Biramitrapur, Rourkela- Kansbahal, Rupsa Jn - Baripada, Sundergarh 15 Comments »

Following is an excerpt from a report in

How justified is the demand to carve out a separate railway division at Rourkela under the East Coast Railway (ECoR)? Given the continuing neglect towards the infrastructure and passenger amenities over decades, the demand is gaining momentum.

With apolitical and political outfits jumping on the bandwagon to seek separation of Rourkela from the Chakradharpur division of the South Eastern Railway (SER), the Railway Ministry is likely to feel the heat ahead.

Train Passenger Steering Committee convener and Rourkela Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Subrat Patnaik in tandem with the members of the Rourkela Development Forum (RDF) and Rourkela Railfanning Association (RRA) are vociferous in their demand. The local BJD unit has gone a step ahead to threaten disruption of mineral transportation by rail if the issue was not sorted out.

Locals feel, in the changed scenario, the triangular districts of Sundargarh, Jharsuguda and Keonjhar – high on industrial and mining activities – would no longer tolerate further neglect as Sundargarh alone annually contributes ` 800 crore to SER.

… Inadequate train services and infrastructure apart, the lingering of the proposed Bimlagarh-Talcher rail link is a stark pointer of neglect, they stated.

Even 10 per cent of the revenue generated from the regions is not spent to benefit a population of over 50 lakh.

RDF and RRA members Dilip Mohanty, Mahendra Mishra, Mihir Swain and Supratik Mishra sent a memorandum to the Railway Ministry over the demand claiming the combined revenue share from these three districts is anything over ` 2,200 crore.  …

The fact that there is an ECOR division in Sambalpur (147 kms from Rourkela) and Chakradharpur (101 kms from Rourkela) should not be a concern as there are many railway divisions that are much closer. In it is mentioned that there are separate rail divisions in Varanasi and Mughalsarai that are only 17 kms apart, Guntur and Vijaywada that are 34 kms apart and so on. 

The petition at lists various reasons why a ECOR rail division in Rourkela is needed. Please visit it and sign it.

There is also a similar need for a railway division in Rayagada or Kesinga/Lanjigarh Rd/Bhawanipatna to cater to existing lines and to the many new lines that are coming up there. The new lines include Naupada-Gunupur and its extension to Therubali and Lanjigarh Rd – Junagarh and its extension to Nabarangpur and Jeypore.  With many people in Viskhapatnam demanding that the VSKP division be split from ECOR, if that happens the Odisha part of the current VSKP division as well the above mentioned new lines should be moved to the proposed division at  Rayagada or Kesinga/Lanjigarh Rd/Bhawanipatna.

In North Odisha with several new lines coming up (Bhadrakk – Dhamara, Chakulia – Buramara, Jaleswar – Digha, ) and with the commencement of broad gauge service in the Rupsa-Baripada-Bangiriposi line a new division in Balasore or Bhadrak is warranted. SER greatly meshed up the Rupsa-Baripada-Bangiriposi line costing Indian Railways significantly. See page 8-9 of 2006-may-CAG report. These parts should also be taken away from SER.

Tavleen Singh on irresponsible activism of N C Saxena that greatly harms Odisha


Following is from Tavleen Singh’s article in Indian Express.

Last week in the Idea Exchange page opposite was the interview of a man who has been responsible for terminating a project that could have turned India into a hub for aluminum production and brought enormous prosperity to Orissa. I read the interview with N C Saxena carefully to try and understand what he did and was astounded to discover his reason. He said that if Vedanta had provided 500 jobs to local people, the environmental inquiry committee that destroyed its bauxite refinery in the Niyamgiri hills would have taken quite a different view.

The reason why this was so astounding an admission was because it is impossible to believe that someone prepared to invest more than Rs 11,000 crores in a project should not have been able to take care of 500 jobs. Mr Saxena admits that the adivasis of Niyamgiri were as keen on improving their lives as anyone else. “They also want to see TV and own cell phones, because now they have seen that some of them who are lucky enough to get a job in the factory have a cell phone. They also want to have that kind of life. No one has given a thought to what can be done to improve the lives of the 100 or 500 families there.”

So, we have a situation in which because 500 people did not manage to get jobs in the refinery, an investment of Rs 11,000 crores will go waste and a project that could have helped double the revenue of Orissa stands terminated. Even more worrying is that a member of the committee that recommended the closure of Vedanta’s refinery should admit that they did this despite noticing that the adivasis would have benefited if the project had not been closed. It is important here to note that Mr Saxena is on Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (NAC) so we must assume that he represents a wider consensus at the top.

As someone who visited Koraput and Kalahandi during the drought in 1987 when adivasi women were selling their babies for as little as Rs 40, may I say that the poverty I saw was hideous. The sight of small children dying slowly of hunger on the dirt floor of mud huts is one of the worst things I have ever seen. Things have improved since then but only barely as most adivasis in most parts of India continue to live off what they can make from marginal farming. Their lives are so devoid of even minimum comforts that nobody can hope that they should continue to live forever off their small scraps of land. And, yet there are mighty NGO crusaders these days who want to ‘preserve’ what they call ‘tribal culture’.

They see the hideous poverty and the mud huts of ‘forest dwellers’ as charming and romantic without noticing that the adivasis do not agree with them. This is evident from the fact that it is from the ranks of adivasi forest dwellers that the Maoists recruit their troops. This is evident from the eagerness with which adivasis embrace modernity and the benefits of the 21st century any chance they get. The young adivasi girls who greeted Rahul Gandhi when he went to Niyamgiri to tell them that he was their ‘sipahi’ in Delhi had hairpins in their hair that could only have come from a modern shop.

This brings me to another interesting aspect of the closure of Vedanta’s refinery. Nobody seems sure why it happened. Rahul Gandhi in his speech the day after the refinery was closed said he was happy that the adivasis had managed to save their land. The Environment Minister announced that he was closing the refinery down because it violated forest laws and now we hear from a member of the ministry’s inquiry committee that the problem was 500 jobs. What is really going on?

Whatever it is, the only people who are winning are those who would like to see India’s poorest people remain poor forever and ever. If Vedanta’s project had not been closed and if Posco manages somehow to go ahead with its steel plant, the revenue of one of our poorest states could double. How can this be a bad thing?

Only massive private investment can bring the schools, hospitals and basic living standards that India’s poorest citizens desperately need. For more than sixty years, taxpayers’ money has been poured into government schemes that have served mostly to make some officials very rich. So when a major private investment is delayed or cancelled on flimsy grounds, it is an act of extreme irresponsibility. It is India’s misfortune that this kind of arbitrary action is becoming the leitmotif of Dr Manmohan Singh’s government. As an economist, he knows the irreparable damage being caused. Why does he not stop it?

Swapan Dasgupta on Jairam Ramesh’s arbitariness and malevolent political calculations; Odisha is the worst affected


Following is an excerpt from Swapan Dasgupta’s article in the Telegraph.

… The last occasion Singh spoke publicly on the unending growth versus environment controversy was at a media interaction on September 6 last year. Asked about industry’s fear of the rampaging minister for environment, Jairam Ramesh, the PM proffered what seemed a tangential answer. We have, he said, no intention of reverting to the licence-permit raj.

The answer was revealing. Having played a part in blunting the jagged edges of over-regulation, Singh was able to see the headline-grabbing actions of Ramesh for what they really are: a resuscitation of controls, using a ‘green’ cover.

… The rise and rise of Jairam Ramesh has been one of the most astonishing stories of 2010. An apparatchik with not even a hint of a mass base, he is today arguably the most powerful minister in the UPA-II government. He has become to economic policy what Pranab Mukherjee is to political management. His reputation isn’t based on his success in making India a more green and pleasant land but on his penchant for saying ‘no’. In a polity where real power lies with the states, he has made his ministry the instrument of the Centre’s intrusiveness, with devastating consequences.

Ramesh’s ‘achievements’ are awesome. He has blocked the largest foreign direct investment of Rs 51,000 crore by Posco in Orissa, stymied the emergence of India as the largest aluminium producing hub in the world, disrupted the Rs 2,000 crore initial public offering of the first private sector-created hill station of Lavasa in Maharashtra, and put a spanner in the works of two Jindal-promoted steel plants in Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The opportunity costs of his veto may well equal the Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme budget!

That’s not all. He has unilaterally flouted all guidelines and committed India at Cancún to positions that could undermine national sovereignty and jeopardize the country’s future growth. He has shifted the parameters of India’s environment diplomacy at both Copenhagen and Cancún, disregarding the advice of India’s tried-and-tested negotiators. What is particularly striking is the dreary frequency with which he has personally repudiated the inviolable red lines of India’s global positions, much to the amusement of the rest of the world.

In between, he has questioned the government’s approach to national security during a visit to China and batted shamelessly for Chinese companies, presumably in pursuit of his Chindia pipe dream. More astonishing, Ramesh has done all this and more after repeatedly rubbing the PM and senior cabinet colleagues the wrong way.

A lesser politician would have been shown the door and made to cool his heels on the back benches. Shashi Tharoor (before his political hara-kiri) was ticked off by party bigwigs for his harmless displays of public-school humour on Twitter. But Ramesh has emerged unscathed from all the controversies and, indeed, grown from strength to strength. He even considered it prudent to level a blanket accusation at the entire political class, claiming harassment by members of parliament lobbying for corporates that have been stung by his decisions.

There are activists who see Ramesh as the best thing since sliced bread: a doughty ‘green’ crusader who is not afraid of doing what is right and playing by the rule book. He has, they say, put environmental activism on the map of India, not least by heeding Medha Patkar on Lavasa, Bianca Jagger on Vedanta and Greenpeace on Posco, appointing National Advisory Council activists to expert committees, and being influenced by internationally-funded advocacy groups on climate change. If public opinion in India was shaped by earnest graduates of American liberal arts colleges and environmental journalists, Ramesh would have been top dog politically — with the added attribute that he is ‘very close’ to the equally earnest heir apparent.

Unfortunately, life isn’t all black and white. Behind Ramesh’s fearless willingness to kick all polluters in the butt lurk malevolent political calculations. The minister, for example, played with a straight bat on the airport in Navi Mumbai. He made Praful Patel sweat, shed tears for the mangrove swamps and then proceeded to clear the project with token caveats. The stakes were just too high and any non-clearance would have led to him being roasted alive by the state Congress.

Equally, he deemed the Jaitapur nuclear power plant of strategic importance and linked it with the Indo-US nuclear agreement. In a different context, he would have waved a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, describing the project as a “social disaster”, to issue an immediate ‘stop work’ notice. This time, the protests didn’t matter because they were, in his view, “politics on the pretext of environment”.

He should know. The stay on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri project was timed to allow Rahul Gandhi his “sipahi” moment. The dispute in Lavasa arose out of a turf battle: should the clearances have come from the Maharashtra government or the Centre? In the case of Posco, Vedanta and Jindal, brownie points were earned by deflating Naveen Patnaik’s aspirational balloon. Additionally, in the case of Posco, there was the delight of undermining the prime minister, who had taken a personal interest in the successful completion of the project. Presumably, from Ramesh’s perspective, these decisions didn’t amount to playing “politics on the pretext of environment”.

There were other sub-texts as well. The Lavasa promoter, it is widely believed, was tarred and made to suffer a huge loss of business credibility for supposedly being ‘close’ to Sharad Pawar. A project which began in 2004 and has more or less completed its first phase was ordered by Ramesh’s ministry to restore status quo ante! The order was subsequently modified but it revealed a mindset. In the case of Vedanta, N.C. Saxena, a member of the inquiry committee, recently admitted to The Indian Express that the decision would have been different if the company had given jobs to 500 local tribals. Posco was asked by Ramesh’s ministry to commit some Rs 3,000 crore to a corporate social responsibility programme as a precondition of clearance. These may be worthwhile political calculations, but they were certainly not “green” considerations.

In a recent interview, Ramesh claimed that “I want to professionalise the system of decision-making. I have proposed the establishment of a National Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Authority — a professional body, independent of the Ministry.” This may well happen in the future but, for the moment, Ramesh has made the ministry of environment a celebration of discretion and arbitrariness. He has merrily set about adding to the scope of his jurisdiction, taking on non-Congress state governments and overturning existing clearances. His ‘green’ norms are breathtakingly simple — “show me the person, I’ll show you the rule.” That, many would say, is what defines governance in India.

Cuttack Development Plan links – draft proposal 2030

Bhubaneswar- Cuttack- Puri, Cuttack, Cuttack 2 Comments »

The links are at

(1) Draft Proposal

The links for the various maps are at

2.1_Administrative_Units 5.4_Proposed_Local_Economy 11.5_Barabati_Special_Area
2.2_Mouza_Map_of_CDPA 6.1_Existing_road_network 11.6_Cantonment_Sp._Area
2.3_Geographical_settings 6.2_Selected_Traffic_Inters 11.7_Judiciary_Complex_Sp. ar
3.1_Existing_LU_BCUC 6.3_Proposed_road_network 11.8_River_Front_Dev.
3.2_Existing_LU_CMC 7.1_Existing_Nature_…_Housing 11.9A_Heritage_Trail_1
3.3_Existing_LU_Choudwar 7.2_Proposed_Housing 11.9B_Heritage_Trail_2
3.4_Existing_LU_Rural 7.3_Slum_Upgradation 11.10_Integrated_Mvment_Ntwk
3.5_Existing_LU 8.1_Location_of_WTP 13.1_Broad_Dev._Zones
3.6_Existing_LU Nirgundi 8.2_Existing_&_Prop_Sewage 14.1_Hubs_of_Sp._Activities
3.7_Existing_LU_Charbatia 8.3_Proposed_STP 14.2_Proposed_LU CDPA
3.8_Existing_LU_Chhatisa 8.4_Existing_Drainage 14.3_Proposed_LU_Nirgundi
3.9_Existing_LU_Choudwar 8.5_Proposed_Drainage 14.4_Proposed_LU Charbatia
3.10_Existing_LU Nimapur 8.6_Proposed_SWTP 14.5_Proposed_LU Chhatitia
3.11_Existing_LU_Bidanasi 9.1_Existing_Social_Infra_Ctc 14.6_Proposed_LU Choudwar
3.12_Existing_LU Old CTC
9.2_Exist._Social_Infra_Choudwar 14.7_Proposed_LU Nimapur
3.13_Existing_LU Sikharpur 9.3_Existing_Social_Infra_Barang 14.8_Proposed_LU Bidanasi
3.14_Existing_LU Mundali 9.4_Proposed_Social_Infra, 14.9_Proposed_LU_Old_Ctc
3.15_Existing_LU Barang 10.1_Major_Tourist_Locations 14.10_Proposed_LU Sikharpur
3.16_Existing_LU_gopalpur 10.2_Prop. Tourist_Travel Ckts 14.11_Proposed_LU Mundali
10.3_Prop._for_Major_Ctrs tourist 14.12_Proposed_LU Barang
3.18_Dev_&Govt_Reserved 11.1_Significant_Heritage_Areas 14.13_Proposed Gopalpur
4.1_Conceptual_Plan 11.2_Identified_heritage 14.14_River_Front_Area
5.1_Existing_&_Prop_Ppln 11.2A_Identified_heritage  
5.2_Existing_Density_2001 11.3_Special_Heritage_Zones  
5.3_Proposed_Dens_2030 11.4_Choudwar_Fort_Special_Area

The links for the Mouza-wise maps are at


Bhubaneswar development plan area expands to 1000 sq km.

Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar- Cuttack- Puri, Cuttack, Khordha, Puri, Telegraph Comments Off on Bhubaneswar development plan area expands to 1000 sq km.

Following is an excerpt from a report in Telegraph.

…, the state government has decided to expand the development area of the capital from 419sqkm to over 1,000sqkm.

According to a notification issued by the housing and urban development department, the expanded area would include 367 revenue villages.

With the two-fold increase in its development zone, the capital’s area will now come to be known as the Bhubaneswar Development Plan Area (BDPA), comprising the districts of Cuttack, Khurda and Puri. The new expansion plan would perhaps be the biggest in the history of the city.

The expanded area will have 263 villages from the district of Khurda, 88 from Puri and 16 from Cuttack. With this new proposal, there will be 572 revenue villages under the development zone.

When the capital city area was planned under BDA in 1983, it had only 93 villages from the undivided Puri district. After two decades, the number of revenue villages went up to 205, and now, with the latest move, it would finally be touching a figure of 572.

Sources in the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) said the development of the capital, instead of remaining restricted along the Phulanakhara-Khurda line, would now be spread in all directions stretching from villages in Cuttack district to Delang in Puri.

…“Earlier, the urban expansion focus was restricted. But now with state secretariat as the central point, the entire region will be developed under the BDPA within a 20 to 25km radius so that there is enough scope for land development, effective road connectivity and special housing zones,” said a senior BDA official.

Just to get an idea of how big 1000 sq km is, the area of the NCT (National Capital Territory) of Delhi is 1483 sq km. The National Capital Region is much larger at 33,578 sq km.

Update on the Bhubaneswar ITIR

Bhubaneswar- Cuttack- Puri, Cuttack, ITIR, Khordha Comments Off on Update on the Bhubaneswar ITIR

Following is an excerpt from a report in Business Standard.

The implementation of the proposed Information Technology (IT) investment region in Orissa will involve a cost of Rs 17,883 crore.

"The IT investment region would generate jobs for 0.23 million people and accommodate a population of around 0.54 million. More than 75 per cent of the investment will be made on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode”, an official source told Business Standard.

The state government has already submitted the final report on the proposed IT investment region prepared by IL&FS-Infrastructure Development Corporation (IL&FS-IDC) to the Government of India …

The IT investment region (ITIR) in Orissa is to be developed on an area of 40 sq km (around 10,000 acres) between Bhubaneswar and Khurda. The ITIR project is expected to be fully operational by 2020.

In the final project report on the ITIR, IL&FS-IDC had included among other things an airport, a global IT training centre, a bio-tech park and a science city spread over 350 acres. …

According to the project plan of IL&FS-IDC, 40 per cent of the area of the ITIR would be earmarked for the processing units of information technology (IT) and ITes sectors (IT enabled services) as well as electronics and hardware manufacturing units.

Following are links to earlier postings on this.

Biju Patnaik Children’s park in Bhanjanagar on 2011 new year day (Samaja).

Ganjam, Lakes, Parks 8 Comments »