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Monday, March 29, 2010

Harsh Realities in BALANGIR

By Priya Ranjan Sahu for Hindustan Times

As one of India’s 300 million officially poor people in one of its most impoverished districts, Kantamani Nag bought 25 kg of rice every month at Rs 2 per kg — five times cheaper than market rates — a fine example of the world's most sprawling subsidised-foodgrain network.

Of the sprawling cradle-to-grave national anti-poverty effort on which the Centre will spend more than Rs 1.18 lakh crore in 2010-11 to create a more inclusive, just India, only the Public Distribution System worked for the Nags — sort of.

Nag (40) kept half the rice for his wife and three children. He sold the rest, creating what is now unofficially called “subsidised-rice income” for the poorest in this western corner of Orissa, where the official poverty line is Rs 356 per month, or about the cost of an appetiser in a metropolitan five-star hotel. When Nag, wizened beyond his years, sold his subsidised rice (sometimes tea leaves and soap as well), it sent him into a death spiral that appears to play out like this across Balangir:

The rice that isn’t sold typically lasts 10 days or less. The family works odd jobs or begs rest of the month. Weakened without enough food, they fall ill for about 100 days each year. They borrow money to pay medical expenses. To repay the loan, they join the 100,000 who migrate to brick kilns and stone mines in Andhra Pradesh.

When they return, they are weaker; many die, not by starvation but from chronic hunger and malnutrition.

Nag’s family ended up working in the kilns and mines for six months every year. These trips took a toll on their weakened bodies. They took more loans to meet medical expenses. The last loan was Rs 20,000 at 10 per cent interest.

“After a time they found it difficult to repay,” said Kasturi Nag (42), Kantamani’s sister-in-law, who narrated their tale on a warm spring day in their western Orissa village of Kurenbahali. “As a result, they started eating less food.”

Growing, gnawing hunger

Breakfast for the Nags was a handful of puffed rice and tea without milk. Lunch was pakhal, watery rice, with an onion.

Dinner wasn’t very different — on the few days the Nags had any.

Hindustan Times recorded similar patterns in journeys to 55 families in 27 villages in Balangir, where 62 per cent of all families officially live below the poverty line across 6,575 sq km, more than four times larger than the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

In interviews, many officials in Balangir confirmed that they were witnessing a deepening cycle of poverty.

It could explain how millions of hungry people are slipping through the cracks nationwide; how shoddy implementation imperils well-meaning, ambitious national anti-hunger programmes; how mothers become malnourished, giving birth to more malnourished children than anywhere else in the world.

Every year, 3,000 pregnant women are admitted to Balangir’s hospitals. “More than 50 per cent are anaemic, malnourished,” said Dr Purnachandra Sahu, Balangir’s chief district medical officer. Theoretically, help is available, through the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the world's largest programme for nutritional and school needs of children younger than six, administered through 1.4 million centres nationwide.

Though 80 million children are theoretically covered, one in two Indian children is malnourished, the world's worst rate.

In Balangir, there are free vitamins, proteins and medicine available.

The Nags appear to have used these centres at some point. The evidence: Their children are alive (though their condition isn't clear). For severely malnourished children, there’s Rs 500 to be had from the Chief Minister’s relief fund.

Sahu opened registers of Nutrition Day — held on the 15th of each month to provide dietary support to children — to show how about 3,000 malnourished children under age six are brought to Balangir’s 14 primary health centres every month. Sahu said 53 per cent of all children at his centres are malnourished.

In 2009, official ICDS figures say 87 children, or 0.04 per cent suffered the most severe malnourishment, grade IV, which means they needed urgent medical attention.

“The children are malnourished because in most cases the mothers are malnourished,” said Pratibha Mohanty, Balangir district’s social welfare officer.

The death rate of children under six is worsening. In 2006, 48 children died in every 1,000, rising to 52 the next two years; in 2009 it was 51, according to district health records. Balangir’s cycle of poverty continues into adulthood.

Most patients who come to Balangir hospitals today are anaemic, have gastrointestinal infections or are directly malnourished, according to district health records.

Stopping migration would certainly help already weak villagers. Theoretically, the Nags need not have migrated.

The world’s largest jobs-for-work programme, the National Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), is supposed to help people like them, assuring them 100 days of employment every year. The national NREGS budget for 2010-11: Rs 40,000 crore, more than a third the size of the defence budget.

Here in Kurenbahali, there were no NREGS jobs in 2009. Thus far, there’s no sign of work this year either. “People would not migrate if NREGS works are done regularly through the year,” said Paleswar Bhoi (35), a villager.

Slippery statistics

Instead of the required 100 days, Orissa has provided no more than 35 days of work each year. Across most of Balangir’s 1,792 villages, NREGS work isn’t available for a full month in a year, HT’s inquiries revealed.

Sanjay Kumar Habada, project director for the district rural development agency, has another set of figures to share: NREGS projects across Balangir employ more than 30,000 people, whom the administration pays “We pay them Rs 30 lakh every day,” said Habada. It isn’t much use to the poorest.

Of the 240,000 people registered under the NREGS in Balangir, only 476 (0.2 per cent) live below the poverty line, according to the website of the Union Ministry for Rural Development.

Like a number of Balangir villagers dying in their 30s and 40s — the exact numbers are uncertain — Nag died in February 2008, officially of fever. His wife Kulbati (32) lived for 18 months more before dying of tuberculosis.

The statistics will not record the chronic hunger or malnourishment that possibly made the Nags susceptible to disease.

Officially, they died natural deaths.

Theoretically, the Nags’ children should, even at this stage, have been able to claim help from the state.

When the sole earning member dies, the family is eligible for Rs 10,000 under the National Family Benefit Scheme, created after a Supreme Court order.

The grant is supposed to be paid within four weeks of death: More than 15,000 applications are pending with the Balangir district administration “over years”.

No one can say how many years.

Nag’s sister-in-law, Kasturi, has never heard of such a scheme.

“I gather that many people fail to provide death certificates,” said Balangir Collector Sailendra Dey. “I have instructed officials to help people in submitting the death certificates so that the amount can be disbursed to the beneficiaries.”

Local lawyer Bishnu Prasad Sharma said the grant needed only an authorisation from a local ward member or sarpanch.

Bisnu Sahu, a naib sarpanch (village headman), said he never knew he had such authority. “No one ever told me,” he said.

The district collector, the chief administrative official, implied this was indeed the case. “I have asked officials to make people aware of the scheme,” Dey said.

Back near the Nags’ abandoned hut, Kasturi explained why a severe pain in her leg didn’t allow her to join her husband, son and daughter-in-law in the desperate migration south.

Where are the surviving Nags, the two daughters and a son, aged between seven and 16? Gone, said Kasturi, to that brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh.

For another generation, Balangir’s death cycle has started

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quit Koshal convention from April 1 : KKD

embers of the Koshal Kranti Dal (KKD) have resolved to hold Koshal Chad Maha Samabesh (Quit Koshal mega convention) on the lines of Quit India Movement on April 1 at Sambalpur town demanding separate Koshal state.

Speaking to mediapersons yesterday, KKD president Pramod Mishra said similar conventions will be held across the region to intensify the stir. Mishra also threatened to oppose exhibition of Oriya films, operas, CDs, literature and imposition of Oriya culture in the region. Castigating the industries in the region for initiating development activities in other parts of Orissa rather than in the area, he warned the industrial houses to quit the region by 2014 if they don’t rally behind separate state demand.

He also advised the peoples’ representatives to change their attitude for the sake of motherland and asked them to raise the separate state issue in both Assembly and Parliament. Disclosing that many politicians cutting across party lines have evinced interest in joining KKD, Mishra said that inhabitants of Koraput, Phulbani, Nabrangpur and Rayagada have also expressed their desire to join the proposed Koshal state. He even asked the people to enrol their mother tongue as ‘Koshali language’ during the census process and urged them to join the movement.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Opposition demand removal of chairman and expert members of the Western Orissa Development Council (WODC)

The Congress members on Wednesday stalled the proceedings of the Assembly demanding removal of chairman and expert members of the Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) over the `usurpation’ of powers.

The members rushed into the well demanding a ruling by Speaker Pradip Amat on special mentions leading to several adjournments.

Describing the members as experts in taking percentage and cuts from projects and deciding on tenders, the legislators said they have emerged parallel power centres in their constituencies.

Raising the issue, Santosh Singh Saluja (Cong) alleged that violating all Acts, the expert members have submitted 257 project proposals. These members, who were defeated in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections as BJD candidates, are also reviewing the projects at block offices. He also mentioned about two defeated BJD MLA candidates from Atabira and Patnagarh constituencies and one from Bargarh Lok Sabha seat.

Demanding immediate halt to the infringement of power of the MLAs, Saluja demanded that all proposals given by the expert members be cancelled and they be immediately removed.

His party colleague Naba Kishore Das alleged that it is a well thought out plan of the BJD to create trouble for the Opposition MLAs in their constituencies by promoting the expert members through WODC.

Surendra Singh Bhoi announced that he will stage dharna in the House during the next session if the Government did not remove the chairman and the expert members immediately. Gobardhan Das wanted to know details about the expenditure incurred by the chairman and expert members.

Nihar Ranjan Mahanand and Subal Sahu also raised the issue and wanted their dismissal.

Normalcy returned after the Speaker directed Planning and Coordination Minister A U Singhdeo to make a statement. The minister said that the Act does not give preferential treatment to any category of members.

He clarified that 1,737 proposals worth Rs 63.42 cr from MLAs were accepted against 3.97 cr from expert members. While the proposals from MLAs constitute 63.42 percent of the funds, those from the expert members are only half a percent of the accepted proposals.

He said that members can review work anywhere in WODC.

Source:- IndianExpress (18 Mar 2010)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Norms Violated: Tractors replace workers in Balangir

The Khaprakhol block under Patnagarh sub-division made headlines recently for malnutrition and starvation deaths. Nothing much has changed since then. Mass exodus from the district continues unabated in the absence of livelihood opportunities.

However, at a time when locals are claiming that nonavailability of work is forcing them to migrate, Watershed Mission has been using tractors for earth work which should have been done manually as per the norms.

Reports said after the villages of Maharapada, Kuturla, Nandupala, Chanchanbahali, Bandepadar, Kandarabhata, Nuapali, Banmal, and Damnimal under Khaprakhol block were identified as droughtprone, various drought-proofing works were undertaken under Western Orissa Rural Livelihood Project (WORLP) which has been implemented in Bargarh, Balangir, Kalahandi and Nuapada districts.

But instead of undertaking earth work manually, which would have provided the local landless and those having marginal land holding with work, the Watershed Project is being done mechanically using tractors. And the tractors deployed are owned by people of Rajasthan.

Since these tractors have attachments to dig and excavate soil, they are much in demand.

While villagers claimed that they are being deliberately denied work, officials said since the funds for the projects were lying unspent for the last two years, they are forced to get the work done mechanically.

Haribandhu Dharua of Patnagarh Soil Conservation Office, who is incharge of the Jai Jagannath watershed project, clarified that the decision had to be taken in the absence of labour force and on the direction of the Project Director.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kosli traditional flavour to Phagun Puni (HOLI)


The much-awaited spring festival Dol Purnima or Holi, locally known as ‘Phagun Puni’ has special significance for the denizens of KOSAL (Present western Orissa). The inhabitants of the region celebrate the age-old festival in their own traditional ways.

The households of KOSAL perform ‘Gun'dikhia’ ritual on the day of Phagun Puni, the full moon day in the lunar month of Phalguna when new gram, green mango, Chaar berries, Mahua and Palash flowers are offered to Goddess Laxmi, the family deity. People start eating new gram and mango while rural dwellers begin collection of Mahua flowers only after performing the ‘Gun'dikhia’ ritual. During the celebration, various traditional dishes and pancakes, including Kakra and Khiri, are prepared.

The Gundikhia ritual is also performed in Samaleswari temple, the abode of Goddess Samaleswari, the presiding deity of Sambalpur and other temples across the region.
The festival is connected with destruction of the demon Holikasura or the she-demon Holika by making a bonfire, for which the festival is called Holi. The ‘Holi Puda’ Or Huili (bonfire) ritual is performed a day before the Dol Purnima by lighting fire on a heap of wood in the night.
In rural pockets, villagers organise yagna which culminates on Dol Purnima and the rural-dwellers carrying the images of Radha and Krishna in decorated Vimana (small wooden temple like structure) move across the village. The deities pay a visit to different localities adjoining the village and receive homage and offerings from devotees. This apart, people belonging to ‘Gouda’ caste whose traditional occupation is cattle rearing, worship cattle on the occasion.
The cattle are bathed, anointed with vermilion, garlanded and fed sumptuously. They also perform Badi Khela (dancing with sticks) during the festival after the ritual of Badi puja (worship of sticks).
Main article taken from :- Indian Express (Published on 1st March 2010)

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Welcome to KOSAL

JAI KOSHAL

"Aamar Sanskruti Aamar Gaurav"

Welcome to the land of culture "Koshal" . Koshal is the land of great warriors. The land of Maharaja's.The land of Maa Samalei, World famous sambalpuri saree , great teracotta works, land of tantrik Vidya, world famous Sambalpuri music and dance.

Koshal consists of ten beautiful districts..
Sambalpur,Balangir,Kalahandi,Sundergarh,Bargarh,Jharsuguda,Subarnapur,Boudh,Nuapada
and Deogarh.

The motto of this community is to bring all the young warriors of koshal to a common platform from where they can initiate the process to preserve the great Koshali culture and swear to free our motherland koshal from atrocities..

So friends lets join hand and do something extraordinary to create a separate identity of us across the globe and create a separate koshal state,full of prosperity and impartiality.

We Consider Kosali language as the mother of Oriya language, the origin of kosali language was found by the historians from Subarnapur in Stambheswari inscription of 12th century A.D. The Kosali language is spoken by about 2 crores of people in the entire KBK belt and Western Orissa and part of A.P., M.P., Chhatisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It is a matter of regret that the Government of Orissa has not taken any interest to improve the standard of Kosali (Sambalpuri) language.


KOSAL COMMUNITY STRONGLY DEMANDS THAT THE KOSALI(SAMBALPURI) LANGUAGE SHOULD IMMEDIATELY BE ENLISTED IN THE 8TH SCHEDULE OF THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA


So start sharing your views on Koshal.....