Two-wheelers riding high - Vehicular density yet to be calculated in city
Ranchi, April 30: It's official. Two-wheelers are the hot favourite among city residents as over 30,000 of them have been added to the already congested roads in the last fiscal.
A total of 41,923 new two-wheelers have been registered with the Ranchi district transport office in the last financial year against a corresponding figure of 35,837 registered in 2005-06 — an increase of 6,086.
Of the total number of new vehicles registered at Ranchi, two-wheelers continue to rule the roost. Against the 25,424 two-wheelers registered with the office during 2005-06, the figure has jumped up to 30,185 over the previous year, an increase of 4,761.
Things have stood quite motionless in the four-wheeler segment. A total of 4,317 new four-wheelers were registered in the last fiscal as compared to 4,049 in 2005-06.
However, district transport officer Shivendra Kumar Singh strongly refuted the belief that all new vehicles registered at Ranchi every year are adding to the city's vehicular population.
"Mere registrations do not imply that all the vehicles are plying within the Ranchi municipal area. A good number of two- and four-wheelers registered with us are plying in other districts too. There are cases where vehicles are exported to neighbouring states as well. Again, vehicles registered in other states enter Ranchi. Hence, an increase in registration of new vehicles cannot be interpreted in any way vis-à-vis increase in vehicular density," Singh told The Telegraph.
According to official statistics released by Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), Ranchi has a total of 470.71 km of pucca and kutchcha roads spread over 31 wards comprising the corporation area. Of these, 346.44 km are pucca roads while the remaining 124.27 km are kutchcha roads.
The district transport office, however, conceded that no study has ever been made to find out the average vehicular density of the city. Neither are there any statistics available to indicate the maximum number of vehicles that Ranchi is capable of accommodating, he said.
"The DTO, Ranchi office is also not competent to comment either on the present or projected vehicular density," Singh stressed. Singh further pointed out that the daily traffic hold-ups witnessed on the roads of the state capital are also not indicative of the vehicle population as jams occur due to many reasons.
He agreed that the number of vehicles has increased in the past five years but was not sure of the vehicular density.
"When Maoists in Jharkhand sneeze, Sonebhadra and Mirzapur districts in eastern Uttar Pradesh catch cold." This is how BJP MLC Shyam Singh describes the import of the Maoists' call to voters here.
Maoists are asking people in Sonebhadra, Chandauli and Mirzapur to vote for "their candidates". "And their call carries some weight," says Singh. Fifty-two constituencies go to polls on May 3, apart from a by-election to the Robertsganj parliamentary constituency.
The Maoists' call, however, is a clear deviation from the past since they are traditionally known to issue 'boycott polls' diktats. What has made the Naxals change their stand?
Kameshwar Baitha, a CPI (Maoist) sub-zonal commander lodged in Garhwa jail in Jharkhand, is the one who has scripted the shift. Billed as a rebel with a difference, Baitha finished a close second as BSP nominee in the recently concluded Palamu (Jharkhand) parliamentary bypoll. His next target is to consolidate his hold across the border in Uttar Pradesh, where he has always been a force to reckon with. The 54-year-old has 12 cases of extremist activities pending against him in Sonebhadra. Jharkhand police claim Baitha's son-in-law is a government official and one of his in-laws a police inspector in UP.
"The Maoists have always been debating the feasibility of contesting elections. But, I am no longer a Maoist. Once in jail, the membership ceases. I am only a BSP party worker, and my men are in Uttar Pradesh trying to ensure that the elephant has a cakewalk," Baitha explains.
The explanation, however, has stoked fears across the border. Not surprisingly, the Samajwadi Party is making the loudest noises. Vijay Singh Gaur, SP MLA from Dudhi constituency, says "this Maoist diktat is a plan hatched by Mayawati".
But there are takers for Baitha's kind of politics. Says Kailash Ghasia of Nagwa, "Politicians remember us only during polls. They are not worth risking our lives for. We should vote the way the wind blows."
It was in August 2001 that the idea of establishing a Com-pact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ), from the forest tracts of Adilabad (Andhra Pradesh) to Nepal, traversing the forest areas of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar, was conceptualized at Siliguri in a high-level meeting of the Maoist leaders from India and Nepal.
The primary aim of CRZ is to facilitate the easy movement of extremists from one area in the proposed zone to another. The concept of CRZ was essentially seen as a prologue to the further expansion of Left-wing extremism in the subcontinent. Looked from this angle, the notion of CRZ seems to be moving in the right direction, for, there has been a remarkable Maoist growth between 2001 and 2007 in both India and Nepal.
As of now, while the Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (CPN-M) has joined the interim Government of Nepal, their Maoist counterparts in India have carved out several guerilla zones in different parts of the country.
What was once a utopian concept, the idea and reality of CRZ in India has indeed made big strides. While the Maoists were busy executing their mega plan of CRZ, the economic policy of India marked a dramatic shift with the Government of India announcing the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in its Export-Import Policy 2000.
As per the SEZ Act 2005, SEZs are geographical regions that have different economic laws to the rest of the country to facilitate increased investments and economic activity. The politics engulfing the whole issue of SEZs has definitely acquired a Maoist flavor, as can be clearly ascertained from the happenings of Kalinga Nagar, Singur and Nandigram. Recent happenings on the SEZs front shows that the idea of SEZs, which was originally formulated as a development strategy, has now become a rallying cry for Left-wing extremism. Couple of months back, during their ninth unity congress, the top ranking Maoist leadership from 16 Indian states decided to launch violent attacks on SEZs and projects that displace people.
The Annual Report of the "Central Military Commission" of the Communist Party of India- Maoist (CPI-Maoist) outlines the Naxal plan of creating disruptions at several proposed infrastructure and mining projects and steel plants.
The potential Naxal targets as mentioned in the report are the bauxite mining project of the Jindals in Visakhapatnam, the Polavaram irrigation project, steel plants proposed in Chhattisgarh by Tata, Essar and Jindal, the Center's proposed railway line on the Rajhara-Raighat-Jagdalpur sector, Posco's steel plants under construction in Orissa, power plants proposed by the Ambanis, a proposed steel plant in Jharkhand by the Mittal Group and the Kosi irrigation project in northern Bihar. The Naxal concept of CRZ and their brand of politics over the issue of SEZs is something which needs to be taken seriously.
The Naxal intentions are clear; they want to use SEZs as the most powerful weapon for the complete realization of CRZ. The link between the Naxal concept of CRZ and the new development mantra of SEZs is no coincident. The Naxals have grown stronger in the tribal districts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Maharashtra, which attracts US$85 billion of promised investments, mostly in steel and iron plants, and mining projects.
Ironically, all these investments and projects are of no benefit to the locals, and in most of the cases, in the absence of a credible 'Rehabilitation and Resettlement' (R&R) policy, the locals are forced to loose their lands which are crucial for their survival. The Naxals have been quick to realize this and reflect it in their agenda. After the sad happenings of Nandigram, the Union Government was forced to take stock of the issues related to SEZs.
Recently, after including a few changes in the SEZ Act, the Central Government's Empowered Group of Ministers on SEZs approved 83 new proposals in addition to the already notified 63 projects. The head of the government has already declared that SEZs is a reality. SEZs in itself is not a bad idea, but the problem lies with its poor implementation. 'Rehabilitation and Resettlement' holds the key to the successful realization of SEZs in India.
Government need to show that SEZs as a development strategy would result in equitable distribution of its gains. There is no denying that India is growing but certain sections are being continuously denied a share in this growth. Except for symbolic tokenism, such as the Employment Guarantee Scheme, the fundamentals of delivery are missing from most of the plans and projects.
It is this tokenism that has given an opportunity to the Naxals to hijack the issue of SEZs in their favor. Today, the Naxals have realized that the Spring Thunder of 1968 failed to give the desired results owing to wide differences in Indian and Chinese conditions.
Accordingly, they have reformulated their premises of Maoism. Unfortunately, the government is taking too long to realize that though its SEZs policy is based on the Chinese model, its success would depend a lot on its application to Indian conditions.
The writer is Lecturer, G M College, Sambalpur, Orissa
Bolstered by rising demand in the country, JSW Steel has decided to increase its overall production capacity to 30 million tonnes by 2020, multiplying from the current level of 3.8 million tonnes, aiming to use cash flows from a shorter expansion plan expected to be completed in three years to fund a larger growth scheme.
The company plans to set up greenfield projects of 10 million tonnes each in West Bengal and Jharkhand by 2020 and boost the capacity of its existing plant at Vijaynagar in Karnataka to 10 million tonnes by 2010, said Sajjan Jindal, vice-chairman and managing director of JSW.
JSW has also made a small acquisition in the United Kingdom. It has acquired the UK-based Argent Independent Steel Ltd at an enterprise value of 3.7 million pounds (about Rs 31 crore). The acquired company has debt of around 2.1 million pounds. The annual steel processing capacity of the company is 1.5 lakh tonnes.
"The company is not looking at acquiring major assets outside India as the domestic market offers tremendous opportunities," Jindal told Hindustan Times.
The company has already started the first phase of its expansion to increase its capacity to 6.8 million tonnes in Vijaynagar, entailing a total capital expenditure of Rs 5,300 crore, to be completed by 2009.
Simultaneously, the company has decided to add another 3.2 million tonnes of capacity at the same place. In addition, it is setting up a cold-rolling plant with a capacity of one million tonnes and a separate hot strip plant of a comparable size.
The total capital expenditure involved in this expansion including the cost of setting up a blast furnace will be around Rs 17,000 crore, said JSW's finance director Seshagiri Rao. This will be funded though the combination of debt and internal accruals.
The company has already tied up debt of Rs 5,000 crore, while tranches adding up to Rs 5,000 crore will be raised as long-term loans, Rao said. The remaining Rs 7,000 crore will be funded through internal accruals over the next four years, he added.
Jindal said the company had applied to the West Bengal and Jharkhand governments for leases to mine iron ore. "We are expecting to get the mining lease in the next 6 to 8 months. Once the mining lease rights are given, we will firm up our financial plan to fund these projecs," Jindal said.
These two units will come up in phases with 3 million tonnes to be added every three years. "After 2010, we will have capacity of 10 million tones, which will generate enough cash to fund the further expansion," Jindal said.
The company reported a marginal increase in profit after tax (PAT) at Rs 413.25 crore for the quarter ended March 31, as compared to Rs 410.68 crore for the same quarter last year. Total income (net of excise) increased 30.76 per cent to Rs 2,579.27 crore for the fourth quarter ended March 31, from Rs 1,972.43 crore in the corresponding quarter a year ago.
For the year ended March 31, the company posted a profit after tax of Rs 1,292 crore as compared to Rs 856.53 crore for 2005/06 while total income (net of excise) increased to Rs 8,699.59 crore from Rs 6,598.49 crore.
The group recorded a profit after tax after share of profit from associates of Rs 1,303.89 crore for the year ended March 31, while the total income (net of excise) was Rs 8699.59 crore.
Amendment to VAT provisions irks Jharkhand assessess
Jharkhand sales tax assessees are unhappy about some amendments in the states Value-Added Tax (VAT) provisions that make life more difficult for the taxpayer.
They said that the amendments have been made without consulting members of the Jharkhand Vat Amendment Committee, of which most trade associations of the state are members.
Jharkhand was among the last lot of states in the country to introduce VAT, with effect from April 1, 2006.
On March 9, 2007, the state brought in an amendment in its VAT provisions that said all three types of forms meant for transportation of goods would have to be authenticated by the department, and that too with retrospective effect from April 1, 2006. On implementing Vat, and while asking sales tax assessees to get forms printed on their own, the department said that only green forms which are meant for 'importing goods from outside the state,needed to be authenticated by the department.
The two other forms, which didn't need the department's authentication earlier but now need it, are for transportation of goods within the state' and for sending goods outside the state'. Prior to implementation of Vat, sales tax assessees were to file both monthly and quarterly returns. When Vat came into force, they were required to file only monthly returns. An amendment has now been made that makes it compulsory for the assessee to file quarterly returns again, over and above monthly returns.
"The monthly data given by the assessee is an elaborate one under Vat. Instead of burdening him further,the department can easily add them up to arrive at the quarterly figures," said RN Gupta, president, Singhbhum chamber of commerce & industry.
CESC chooses Katikund for 1000mw Jharkhand project
JAMSHEDPUR: CESC Ltd has finally chosen Katikund in Jharkhand's Dumka district as the site for its 1000-mw-pithead thermal power project, for which it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NDA-led Arjun Munda government in September 2005.
Dumka falls in the Santhal Parganas region of the state, not far from adjoining West Bengal.
In the MoU, CESC had offered three alternative sites to the Jharkhand government---at Godda, Latehar and Chandil---to locate the project, of which only the Godda site was near a pithead.
The Katikund pithead site was decided upon later.
Sources said CESC vice-chairman Sanjiv Goenka and other company officials met Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda in Delhi on Friday and discussed the progress of the project in some detail.
This is the first time the RPG group will be investing outside West Bengal in the power sector. Its earlier attempt to enter Bihar around 18 years ago with a power project failed to take off.
The project, to come up at a cost of around Rs 5,000 crore, has now been envisaged in two stages of 500 mw each, instead of the earlier plan of two plants of 250 mw each in the first stage, followed by another with 500 mw capacity later on.
"We have applied for all clearances, but first let us get the coal block first," a company source told FE.
CESC will apply for the coal block to the Union coal ministry after obtaining the necessary state recommendation.
Sources said the ministry was likely to take another 2-3 months to decide on the issue.
"The project will take off the moment we get signals from the Centre and the state government, as we have applied for everything, including land for the project, water, etc," said the source.
While the first 500-mw unit is expected to come up in 36 months from the date all clearances are obtained, the second (500-mw) unit will be completed in another six months' time.
Jharkhand will have the right to buy 25 % of the power generated by the power utility at rates to be determined by the Jharkhand State Electricity Regulatory Commission (JSERC).
According to the original MoU, in order to support Jharkhand's industrial development, CESC will also be allowed to supply power directly to bulk consumers in the state at mutually agreed tariff and other terms and conditions.
Sources said the original MoU, which was valid for one year, has been revalidated between the parties.
Ranchi - A Catholic priest serving in a remote tribal village in India's Jharkhand region was hospitalized last week after he was severely beaten, the UCA news service reports.
Father Isidore Toppo was reportedly recovering from injuries he suffered after he was beaten and left unconscious by unidentified assailants on April 24.
The Catholic Church has a strong presence in Jharkhand, a tribal region in eastern India that gained recognition in November 2000 as India's 28th state. The prominence of the Church, and Catholic leadership in the drive for statehood, have sometimes provoked tensions with local Hindu groups.
- Government needs to protect and promote industries
Bihar Rubber Company Ltd, Ranchi, has been manufacturing good quality rainwear, industrial footwear and pillows made out of rubber for the Indian markets. "Unfortunately," general manager Jyotirmay Basak said while talking to Rudra Biswas, "we do not get support from the government."
The company, which is one of the oldest small-scale industries in Kokar Industrial Estate, is a subsidiary of Bengal Waterproof Ltd, which manufactures rubber goods under the brand name Duckback. The company was set up in 1975 with Basak as head of Jharkhand and Bihar operations.
Do you agree that the general atmosphere is conducive for the growth of small-scale industries in Jharkhand?
The general atmosphere is not at all conducive for the growth of any manufacturing unit. More than 40 MoUs have been signed by the state government to rope in outside entrepreneurs though manufacturing units here continue to be ignored.
What specific problems do you face?
The books say that Jharkhand is full of minerals. I ask, what do I do with all these minerals if I cannot explore them? The local district industries office remains useless.
Bureaucrats have been interpreting the law according to their own whims and fancies. Then there is the explosion of labour leaders.
Industries in Jharkhand do not just need protection; they also need promotion by the state.
Are you getting support from the state industries department?
Over the past 32 years, there has never been any effort on the part of the industries department to promote industries. However, things have begun to change slowly of late. Harassment by industry department officials have also become a thing of the past.
The public sector steel makers are back in business in India. This is so if one goes by the plans of investment announced by the government owned Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) and also the iron ore mining company National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).
SAIL, for example, has ambitious plans - to raise capacity in each of the existing mills, set up a greenfield plant in Jharkhand, build a completely new plant at Burnpur (IISCO). It is not important to know what plans exactly they have at the moment. But, there are good economics to raise their Bokaro plant capacity to 10-12 million tonne, Bhilai to 10 million tonne, Durgapur to another 10 million tonne and Rourkela to about 5 million tonne.
They can have a 4-5 million tonne plant at Burnpur. They can have at least a million tonne stainless steel plant at Salem and raise the iron making capacity of VISL if it is possible. All these are in brownfield mode. They have announced a 5-6 million tonne greenfield plant in the state of Jharkhand and are planning to set up another 4-5 million tonne plant in Chhattisgarh along with NMDC and RINL. One is not sure whether they have the land ready for a greenfield plant in Jharkhand or for the joint venture plant in Chhattisgarh (The Chhattisgarh plant has not in any case gone beyond the drawing board). With their presence already in the regions, it may easier for them to get clearances earlier. If they get Nilachal, expansion possibilities are also enormous there.
RINL is currently executing a project to raise the plant's capacity to 6.3 million tonne. They have been talking about going up to 18 million tonne. Most may write that, these plans as among many which do not see the light of the day. But, a careful examination will reveal solid reasons for the PSUs to go all out on expansion. SAIL for example, has iron ore and coal. They have most of the land required for the brown field cases. They have excellent manpower, somewhat ageing, but, can still draw new good talents, with the cover of government company safety.
The incremental capacity addition costs, as well known, are much lower in brownfield cases. Even the additional transport and logistics infrastructure for the incremental capacity will not be much and will not put any big burden on the government to create those. TRINL does not have captive iron ore or coal mines. But, they have some assured supply from NMDC.
The state government policies of allotting mines only to those who set up plants in their respective states have caused some difficulties for the company. But, they have land to expand, a port next door, and a well developed road and railway infrastructure.
With the joint venture plant in Chhattisgarh, they may be able to reassure themselves of a long term supply of high quality ores from that state. Both SAIL and RINL are real pots of gold when it comes to their real assets. At the moment, with steel prices so high and are expected to remain so for a long time, the cash flow to these companies will be massive. The typical public sector image - the work culture and the government interferences - may come on the way, but, there are definite changes as well.
Water or mines? The answer should be obvious, but thanks to the pots of gold that lie hidden in them, mines are robbing the countryside of its natural wealth.
Do you want water or minerals? The question need not always be this. But for many activists and communities arraigned against mines, it could be something as extreme, especially if it is someone in Vishakhapatnam fighting the depleting water levels, thanks to bauxite mining.
In Niyamgiri in the Lanjigarh block of Orissa's Kalahandi district, the choice could be between the golden gecko (a rare lizard) sited there and bauxite. Vedanta has set up a refinery in a proposed wildlife sanctuary, though it has not yet got the permission of the Supreme Court to set up the mine. People are fighting to ensure it never gets the permission. At stake are 100 pure streams of water flowing down the valley which is the source of two rivers.
"Mines drink all the water, besides polluting them," says Prafulla Samantara of the Lok Shakti Abhiyan of Orissa. He and Biswajit Mohanti of the Wildlife Society of Orissa are petitioners in the case against Vedanta.
Achyut Das and Vidhya Das, an activist couple, have been fighting the miners, Utkala Aluminium International Limited, from setting themselves up in Kashipur in nearby Raigarha district. "I have a non-bailable arrest warrant against me even now," Achyut Das says smiling through his grey beard. There is a glint of victory in his eyes at the thought of a fight that has lasted for 15 years against a corporate.
In fact, Orissa, which has seen a massive flow of mining leases in the last few years, seems to be beset with landmines of resistance almost everywhere a mining site is planned. It is there even in the much celebrated Arcelor Mittal site in Keonjhar.
The conflicts end either in Kalinganagar type bloodshed or the ongoing use of police force, as in Jagatsingpur against those resisting Posco, or in a new rehabilitation policy announced by the Orissa government recently. Can a small room, a job for a member in the family and some cash substitute the vast wealth of land and forests? Again, there are examples of poorly managed resettlement of displaced persons in the past.
An asbestos mine abandoned decades ago continues to poison fields and the river in Roro in Jharkhand, thanks to negligence by its former owners, the Birla-owned Hyderabad Asbestos Company Ltd.
The law is incapable of holding them accountable. Petty sums are taken as guarantee for mine closure, point out activists. Tribal victims still walk Roro with dim vision and die of strange diseases.
"Not even a medical check-up was ever done," Madhumita Dutta, an activist, points out.
In Jadugada, again in Jharkhand, a government firm has set examples of failure to build bridges with the people whose land it has decided to mine and spew with radioactive waste.
Uranium Corporation of India Ltd Chairman R Agarwal scoffs at the concept of public hearing and laughs at the possibility of health disorders among people in the area. He made a strange statement attending a workshop organised by the Centre for Science and Environment this week. "Poverty is the biggest polluter," he said and walked out with his wife, even as activists from Jharkhand were virtually baying for his blood.
Police suspect that three girls who went missing from their Jharkhand village have left for cities to work as domestic maids.
Gudia Khatoon, 12, Asmana Khatoon, 14 and Manisha Khatoon, 16, are all residents of Bansjari village under Mandar block, 70 km from Ranchi.
Their family members, who have filed 'missing' complaints, have stated that two other girls - Phoolmani and Ranjeeta Urain - had been trying to convince their daughters to work in the city.
'According to the villagers, the three missing girls were last spotted with Ranjeeta and Phoolmani, against whom complaints are lodged,' said a police official.
Said Asmana Khatoon's mother: 'These two girls work as mediators. First they tried to convince us to send our daughters to New Delhi. When we refused, they tried to convince our girls, who are illiterate and have never been outside the village.'
Ranjeeta's visiting card names an agency that arranges domestic maids for Delhi residents. A police team is likely to visit New Delhi soon to trace the girls.
Every year thousands of girls go outside the state to work as domestic maids.
The capacity of the jails in the state has been enhanced by about three times, the state government informed Jharkhand High Court during the hearing of a public interest litigation.
The prisons can now house 18,000 inmates, the state government said before the court. Earlier, the jails could accommodate 5,988.
The Birsa Munda Jail in the capital was built to house 604 inmates but was crammed with prisoners thrice its capacity.
But the new jail in Hotwar can accommodate 3,415 inmates, the government said in an affidavit.
The jails in Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Khunti, Tenughat, Giridih, Chas, Chatra, Latehar and Deoghar have also been expanded.
The Ghagidih jail in Jamshedpur can now accommodate 1,447 inmates, the affidavit said.
Wards that can house 100 prisoners each have been added to the prisons.
The government has also sanctioned the construction of a 100-prisoner ward in Madhupur sub-jail.
The capacity of almost all the jails in the districts has been increased, the counsel for the state government said before the court last Friday.
The state also informed the court that of the 2,822 prisoners accused of petty offences, 992 have been released on bail after efforts of the District Legal Services Authority.
Of the 237 aged and disabled prisoners, 46 have been granted bail, the counsel added.
After going through the records, the high court directed the secretary of the Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority to appear before it in person on May 7 and explain what has been done to the applications of the other accused.
The secretary has been directed to appear on May 7.
The court issued the order while hearing the PIL filed by Amit Kumar, a detainee in the Birsa Munda Jail since 2003. Through the PIL Kumar had brought up the plight of the prisoners.
He had also addressed a letter to the high court's vigilance committee, which is headed by a senior judge.
Jamtara (Jharkhand): A retired man from a small village in Jharkhand is earning fame by making paintings with the help of straw.
Sixty-five-year-old Tarun Guha of Jamatara in Jharkhand is earning through his beautifully made paintings.
Guha's creativity is visible at his workshop located in the locality of Hansipahari in Jamatara District, 250 kms from state capital Ranchi.
After his retirement, Guha thought of doing something to help locals earn their livelihood. Encouraged by the district welfare department, he started training villagers.
"The retired VDO of Jamatara asked me to do work that would benefit the villages and the villagers. I thought that straw was the only thing that I could get easily in a village, and now I have been using it for my paintings and training for the last six years. I have reached a level now that allows me to participate in various fairs across India.
The art that I make, you cannot see anywhere. I get many chances to earn in a year, but run out of material after going to four or five fairs. I get 40000-50000 rupees easily," said Tarun Guha.
Tara Dafadar, an officer of the District Welfare Association, is planning to train villagers to get recognition for the state.
"If we give training to the villagers through our association, our district will get fame."
Tarun Guha draws figure sharply on the paper, pastes straw beautifully and then places colour on it. When the picture gets framed, it gives an extraordinary eye-catching look.
Sivya Jha, who studied till recently in Kerala Public School at Sakchi (Jamshedpur) would not have failed in her annual examination in Class IX, insists her mother, if only she had access to textbooks.
Saira Parveen decided to switch from an Urdu-medium school to a Hindi-medium school because textbooks in Urdu disappeared from the market and were not available.
Suraj Prasad claims to have been running from pillar to post for the past 45 days to get physics, chemistry and biology textbooks for his daughter. But he has not been successful yet. Sanjay Sinha, a banker, claims to have offered to pay extra to the bookstores for the textbooks a month ago. But he still has not got the books.
As parents and guardians once again run from one shop to another, the shortage of textbooks appears to be getting worse.
Officials of the Jharkhand Education Project (JEP), which now has the copyright to print NCERT textbooks, admit that the state government used up the better part of one year to obtain the copyright and another year was spent in floating and finalising tenders.
Now that Saraswati Press at Calcutta, National Printers at Ranchi and Pitambara Books of Jhansi have been asked to print the books, they hope, the situation will start improving. But there is a fresh "mess", says primary education director S.K. Sharma.
Syllabi for Classes I, III and VI have changed nationally during the 2007-08 session. But since JEP failed to secure the copyright for the changed syllabi, these classes in Jharkhand will continue to follow the older syllabi for another year, says Sharma. Syllabi for other classes are also being revised and by 2009, the school curriculum all over the country is likely to change from Classes I to XII.
JEP provides funds for free distribution of books to all girl candidates and students belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. HRD department does likewise for students in the general category and other backward class students studying in 38,000 government primary and middle schools.
The scarcity of textbooks has forced some students and schools to fall back on photocopies. Others are forced to beg, borrow and steal. But there is no explanation why books cannot be supplied if there is a demand for it.
While some people blame the state government's decision to get the books printed on its own for the mess, others blame the allegedly low commission on NCERT books. Some dealers like Birendra Aurora of Pustak Mandir, Ranchi, alleges that the state is flooded with pirated version of books from one Anand Publisher of Delhi.
"The situation will take one or two more sessions to stabilise," adds Aurora.
With business not having picked up as expected, too many flats are waiting to be taken in Ranchi, says Rudra Biswas
A little more than six years after the creation of Jharkhand, there are no takers for more than two lakh square feet of office space, at some of the prime locations in the state capital,either on rent or purchase.
Property dealers warn the scene can only get bleaker if promoters and developers do not slash their prices. People would simply rather invest in Bihar, where they feel the deal is better.
"To let" signs are fast coming up in more areas, and rental charges are coming down, as the frantic search for customers begins. The houses that even four years ago were available at a rental of Rs 3,500, are now being offered at the slashed rate of Rs 2,000. Even then, there are no takers. "Promoters and developers will not admit. But the truth is there are fewer buyers of flats today. In all upcoming multi-storeyed apartments, there are many flats which are still waiting to be booked," said R.S. Agarwal, president of the builders association, Jharkhand. "Even on the Main Road, the all important thoroughfare in the state capital, there are a number of multi-storeyed buildings and a shopping complex, where several floors are waiting for buyers," he informed.
To add to the chaos, at least 500 building plans, submitted by promoters and developers, more than one and half years ago, are pending with the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA). These plans are expected to be cleared by March end. "That would mean an addition of at least 40,000 flats. Where are so many buyers?" he asked. Asked for reason behind buyers preferring Bihar, he said it was because of relaxed investment norms, so much that applicants are assured of allocation of land within 30 days of filing application.
Considering that even six years ago people from Bihar were coming to these areas to invest, it's a trend that's completely reversed. Business has not picked up in the way it had been expected to, with the result being that real estate business, too, has suffered. Ashok Garodia, a property dealer in Ranchi, agrees. "My building plans are still pending with the Ranchi Regional Development Authority. Information is that with no discernable industrial or business growth, there is a severe shortage of buyers. I do not know what would happen by the time my own building plans are cleared," Garodia confided.
Prabhat Kumar Roy, a property dealer in Ranchi, too feels that unless rates are slashed, houses are destined to remain vacant. "Five years ago, a two bed-roomed house and garage commanded a monthly rent of Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000. All such houses, located far away from the main city centre, today can expect not more than Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000, if lucky," Roy said. Whatever happened to the real estate boom...
Both Jharkhand and Orissa have been pulled up for being laggards by a parliamentary standing committee on human resource development.
In a report presented to the Rajya Sabha on Friday, the committee, headed by Janardan Dwivedi, has expressed concern over the large number of districts in the two states without the sanctioned District Institutes of Education and Training (DIET).
While six of the 12 such institutes are functional in Jharkhand, 13 out of the 30 sanctioned for Orissa have come up so far.
Whereas the committee repeatedly pointed out to the department of school education and literacy in the ministry of human resource development about large number of DIETs remaining non-operational, there has been no visible improvement.
"For these states to come out of education backwardness, it is very important that they have requisite number of trained teachers at least for primary and upper primary levels," the panel noted.
Investigation by the committee has revealed that more than a fifth of teachers (22.44 per cent) in Jharkhand are appointed on contract.
The committee has stated that this aspect needs attention, as only teachers with job satisfaction can be ideal teachers.
Jharkhand also takes a beating in training teachers under the 20-day in-service teacher training programme. About half the teachers (48 per cent) in the state have not undergone the training that is seen as a crucial factor for improving quality of teaching under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
The standing committee has said the Mahila Samakhya programme is dogged by the problem of non-registration of MS societies in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
As a result, this programme has shown under-utilisation of funds. Out of the Rs 140 crore allocated to the scheme for 20,380 villages in nine states, only Rs 77.15 crore could be spent.
Ranchi: Not a single government building here has a solar panel to harness energy and electrify the rooms.
Even the office of the Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Authority has no such arrangement, because the office is in a rented building, claims its director, S.E.H. Kazmi.
Though it is a power deficit state and its urban areas, too, suffer from prolonged power-cuts, no attempt has been made to harness alternative sources, say urban planners.
There is no law to make it mandatory for new buildings to provide for solar panels, which will push up the cost of flats by Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh. Nor does the government provide any subsidy for using solar energy in urban areas.
K.S. Narayanan, who supplies and installs solar power equipment, insists that Karnataka government provides 25 per cent subsidy to apartment blocks that use solar power. Even Kazmi admits that such incentive will be useful.
The state government does, however, provide subsidies for using solar water-heaters. As many as 44 commercial establishments, mostly hotels, in the state capital have grabbed the opportunity to install them. The subsidy being Rs 105 per litre, a water heater with a capacity of 100 litres and priced at Rs 15,000, is made available in the cities for one-third the cost. The buyer pays Rs 5,000 while the state government pays Rs 10,000.
Narayanan claims that an apartment block with 30 flats will require 15 KW. It will cost Rs 40 lakh, he admits, without any subsidy and the flat owners will have to fork out a little more than a lakh for it.
But it will be worth it, he says, because each of those flats will be able to operate a TV set, five tubelights and two fans, whenever power supply fails. "What is more, for the next 10 years the residents would not have to spend anything, except for changing the distilled water of the bottles."
Solar power plants start functioning when lights go off and switch off when power is restored.
It is also entirely possible that with greater use, the price will come down substantially, Narayan says. The panel, he claims, will stop working only if there is no sunlight for three consecutive days. It does remain a doubtful proposition during the rainy season.
But in the long run, the cost is negligible. Because unlike diesel gen-sets, solar panels will not require regular fuel supply and will be cleaner and noiseless.
"Organisations like Power Finance Corporation encourage builders to install such solar power systems for which they provide soft-term loans," Narayanan adds.
The government's mandate, however, is to promote solar energy in rural areas. One wonders if the strategy will be more effective if solar panels are first promoted in urban areas.
Aiada to pay market rate for 2,200 acre expansion plan
Facing space crunch, the Adityapur Industrial Area Development Authority (Aiada), Jharkhand's numero uno industrial area, is going ahead with its intention of acquiring around 2,200 acre of private land near the Sitarampur dam at the Gamharia end of the existing Aiada phase-I.
Over the years, all of the 3,000 acre under Aiada phase-I has been allotted to around 500 medium and small industrial units. To satisfy its immediate needs, Aiada is already engaged in 'directly purchasing' around 60 acre around the periphery of phase-I. So desperate is its need, that the authority is even willing to pay the market price, which currently hovers around Rs 4-5 lakh/acre.
However, Aiada which would have to put up infrastructure, including roads and a power sub-station on the that land it purchases, says it would be able to allot land to industry ''at comparable prices'' which it till recently had been doing in phase-I. It is also in the midst of a technical clash with the forest department as around 1,221 acre of the 3,000 acre on which phase-I stands is said to be forest land, which awaits central 'de-notification'.
Although acquired in the early 1960s with all the formalities having been completed, the acquisition is yet to satisfy a 1996 Supreme Court directive, which says no forest land, irrespective of ownership or possession, could actually be claimed by anybody unless it has been officially 'de-notified'.
Aware of the complexity and the long-drawn process involved in acquiring forest land and faced with non-availability of land for accommodating new units, Aiada has chosen to expand on the 2,200 acre of mostly private land, 2.5 km from the periphery of phase-I.
''We need to have Aiada phase-II as there is no land available in phase-I. Tata Motors requires around 800 acre, 400 for their own unit and another 400 for their vendors,'' said Vandana Dadel, managing director, Aiada.
Village electrification is vital for boosting the prospects of rural economy. The process of rural electrification through conventional grid connectivity has been slow despite several schemes of the government.
The 2001 census had identified 5,19,570 villages which do not get power, but can be connected with the conventional power grid.
About 56.48% households do not have access to power supply. The government had also identified about 18,000 villages in remote areas which are not possible for grid connectivity. These villages were, therefore, selected to be electrified by generation of power from new and renewable sources of energy.
According to the latest data available with the ministry of new and renewable energy, only 2,501 out of identified 18,000 remote villages have been electrified to date. Only 830 remote hamlets have been electrified under the programme. The ministry's annual report, however, claiming success of remote village electrification has said that 1,177 villages and 2 hamlets in West Bengal, 395 villages and 34 hamlets in Uttarakhand, 325 villages in Chhattisgarh, 134 villages in Manipur, 118 villages in Jammu and Kashmir, 112 villages in Arunachal Pradesh, 58 villages and 178 hamlets in Tripura, 53 villages in Jharkhand, 39 villages in Assam, 30 villages in Madhya Pradesh, 20 villages in Mizoram, 18 villages in Orissa, 2 villages in Gujarat 558 remote village colonies in Kerala have been electrified by generation of power through new and renewable sources of energy.
The government has also claimed that in 2006-07 alone 264 remote villages and 236 hamlets in nine states were electrified through new and renewable sources of energy.
Projects are under implementation in 1,247 villages and 487 remote hamlets.
The ministry of power has claimed that since the launch of Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) in April 2005 till February 2007, 30,562 unelectrified villages in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Bihar and West Bengal have been electrified under the scheme. Besides intensive electrification of 7,175 already electrified villages has also been achieved, for catering to the needs of families living below the poverty line.
Keeping in view the electrification needs of about 5,19,570 villages and 56.48% of the households, several experts are of the view that generation of power through new and renewable sources of energy, distributed and managed on community basis (taking off grid transmission course) can be a better alternative for faster rural electrification.
The ministry for new and renewable energy sources has estimated a potential for 84,776 mwe grid-interactive power generation from non-conventional sources, like agro residues, wind power, small hydro projects, cogeneration from bagasse and from industrial wastes.
Water scarcity may compel investors to shift base in Jharkhand
Some of the industrial houses, which are keen to set up their plants in the Subernarekha basin, may be compelled to relocate their sites. Reason: Shortage of water in the basin.
Altogether 11 companies, including Tata Steel and Jindal Steel and Power Limited, have applied for clearance from the Water Resources Department to draw water from Subernarekha River for their upcoming plants. However, the huge gap in demand of water vis-à-vis its availability in the river has compelled the department officials to go slow on clearing the proposals.
The river has the flow of 1520 million cubic meter (MCM) water against the demand 1667.15 MCM, which also comprises the requirements of 11 upcoming industries. "We expect a deficit of 147.50 MCM water if all the proposals were approved," said engineer in-chief of the department Phulan Prasad, adding that about 700 MCM water was being utilised from the river for irrigation, drinking water and the industrial purposes.
Citing the water commitment report, officials said that nearly 329 MCM water is being drawn from the river for irrigation, 220 MCM for potable water and 150.75 for industrial usage. M/S Tisco Limited is the major consumer drawing up 124.45 MCM water for its Jamshedpur plant. Five other industries like Hindalco Industries, Adhunik Alloy, Bihar Sponge and Iron Limited and Usha Martin, also draw water from the river.
"Since the river is not able to meet the burgeoning need at the moment, we are planning to approve only those proposals wherein the industrial houses are serious in setting up their plants for the larger benefit of Jharkhand," said a chief engineer of the department.
The department is also planning to interlink the Subernarekha river with South Koel basin.
The industries that have applied for water from the basin include Jindal Steel and Power (140 MCM), Konto Steel (53 mcm), Bhushan Steel and Power (87 mcm), Kalyani Steel (5 mcm), JSW steel (132 mcm), Tata steel (166 mcm), Tata Power (80 mcm), Adhunik Thermal and Energy power ( 52.5 mcm), Tata' future expansion (252.75 mcm), M/s Mini Ispat & Udyog Ltd (10 mcm) and Narsig Ispat Ltd (5.26 mcm).
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was initially launched in 20 districts of Jharkhand and another 2 Districts have been added in the year 2007-08.
In the State 8.69 lakh households have demanded employment and of them 8.46 lakh households have been provided employment up toDecember,06. The average number of households provided employment in a district of the State is 42,320 , while the national average is 91,685 households. Besides, 16 thousand households completed the 100 days guarantee of employment provided in the Act.
The number of person days of employment provided in the State is 308.14 lakh. The average person days of employment provided in a district is 15.41 lakh compared to the national average of 36.47 lakh person days.
The employment was provided on 42,571 works, out of which 15,836 works have been completed. The average number of works taken up in a district stood at 2,129 against the national average of 3,581.
An amount of Rs. 549.49 crore has been released to the State during 2006-07. Against this, the utlisation up to December, 06 is Rs. 369.59 crore, which is 40.42 % of the total availability.
The expenditure on wages is 58.68%, material is 39.97% and on administration is 1.34%. The average expenditure of a district in the State is Rs. 18.48 crore compared to the National average of Rs. 35 crore.
The Act provides that 1/3rd of the employment provided should be to women. In the State 34.67% person days of employment has been provided to women, 24.07% to SC and 40.35% to ST.
A visit to the State by the National Level Monitors in December, 2006 & January 2007 has revealed that NGOs have been assigned task of creating awareness in villages particularly to Job card holders and in some districts convergence with Janashri Bima Yojana of LIC has been initiated.
Jharkhand tribals to celebrate indigenous hunting festival
Despite the forest department's drive to conserve wildlife by putting a ban on hunting and killing of wild animals, tribals in Jharkhand have decided to go ahead with their indigenous annual hunting festival starting April 30.
Dalma Buru Sendra Sammittee -, a central body of the tribals, has decided to go ahead with the age-old practice that involves hunting and killing of animals.
Every year, the forest department tries to sensitise the tribal people but with little success as dozens of animals including deer, boar and wild buffaloes are killed during the week-long festival, known as 'Sendra' among the tribals.
'The hunting festival is inextricably attached with our religion and the sentiments of the people of our community. The state government should not do anything to stop us from practising our faith,' said Demka Soy, convener of DBSS.
During the festival, the tribals wake up early in the morning and worship their deities and ancestors as well as their hunting weapons like bows and arrows. Then they go into the jungle in search of animals by beating drums and chanting of hymns.
Confusing signals emanating from the government cannot cloud the fact any longer that the state is at war. Naxalites have stepped up their activities and appear to be inching closer to the urban centres, to the great discomfiture of the government and the police.
The state government appears convinced that Naxalites can be driven back if only it can emulate the Andhra Pradesh police. It has been dithering over a "surrender policy", hinting however that it would be so attractive that rebels would be tempted to lay down their arms. But notwithstanding the chief minister's announcement that he is ready to talk with the rebels, it is by no means certain that the rebels want to either surrender or even talk to the chief minister. It is against this backdrop that the following suggestions are being made. These measures, emphasise members of the group, will go a long way to build confidence and involve larger sections of the people.
Hold panchayat elections
Without holding the panchayat elections and funnelling funds to the grassroots, there can be no political solution. While the Supreme Court is expected to take up the matter towards the end of May, it is not understood why the state and the Union government together cannot file a petition even earlier seeking the apex court's permission to go ahead with the polls under the existing rules of Pesa (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. After all, this is the Act under which panchayat elections have been held in all the scheduled areas of the country spread across eight or nine states. If the Supreme Court finally strikes down some parts of the Act, it will have to be implemented uniformly across the country and by all states. So, from the next election Jharkhand, too, will have to modify the Act. But till the apex court takes a final decision, the state should be allowed to go ahead with the poll. There is, after all, a complete vacuum of political activity in the villages. With mainstream political parties having retreated and their activity confined to the houses of their respective leaders, it is time to breathe life into panchayats and revive people's participation in development and policy-making.
By modernising police, officials generally have meant equipping the police with more sophisticated fire-power, equipment, security, manpower and funds.
But, in the context of Jharkhand, the police modernisation should begin by studying the composition of the police force — the representation in terms of districts, tribes, subdivisions and up to the villages. One suspects that a large number of policemen in Jharkhand are drawn from Bihar and Gorkhas from Nepal and some even from UP and elsewhere.
With this kind of composition and lack of local connect, the police will never be able to combat the Naxalites. Recruitment should be carefully monitored to ensure that districts and villages are adequately represented. The police must be a representative force and have stakes in local conditions. The "outsiders" in the police should be distributed evenly across the state.
Modernisation will also entail pushing the bar higher, recruiting more women, making educational qualifications and training tougher and attaching NGOs to every police station so that citizens feel more confident in approaching the police.
Easier said than done, perhaps. But with the National Games approaching, there is a golden opportunity to promote various sports activities in the villages, spotting talented sportsmen and women, giving away scholarships and picking some of them for training outside the state. With careful planning, job opportunities in the "sports quota" can be developed and tournaments with attractive prize-money can be promoted.
Mobile vans with video screens and suitable films, music, books and even medicine and doctors can be sent to the villages for education, entertainment and medical attention.
When policemen are entrusted the responsibility to distribute medicines or condoms — or when they are forced to play "friendly" football and volleyball matches and promote clubs — the exercises are so unrealistic that they have failed more often than not. Policemen are feared and hated in villages and these activities do little to dispel the distrust.
Instead, policemen can be used more effectively in conducting surveys — about ration cards, about voters' identity cards, about status of litigation involving villagers and property disputes.
The information will be useful to civil authorities and gradually people might start looking at policemen differently. The cops can also be utilised to report on the functioning of health centres and schools. It will be an unusual role for them but it will be more useful than policemen enacting plays to ridicule Naxalites.
Media and PUCL
It is in the state's own interest to allow the media and civil liberties organisations, both within the state and outside, permission to interact with the rebels in jail.
This will help the judiciary and the police, too, to identify the innocent from the indoctrinated. Thousands of "innocent" people can then be released and rehabilitated, trials can be expedited and the state can inspire confidence by announcing compensation for cases involving violation of human rights.
NEW DELHI: Domestic steel producers have asked the government to modify the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act to accord priority in allocation of captive mines to utilities producing two million tonnes of steel annually.
"We have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in modification of the MMDR Act to accord priority to steel utilities with two MT capacity in allocation of captive mines," said an Indian Steel Alliance (ISA) official.
"The MMDR Act needs to be changed to specify that all steel projects of a capacity of at least two MT are eligible for captive mines irrespective of their location and existing iron ore leases with steel producers are renewed," he reasoned.
The procedure for allocating of captive mines need to be formulated and simplified. "Unless this is done, any allotment of mines to a party who is not a first applicant is likely to get embroiled in litigation and there will be no progress on the ground," the official pointed out.
Arguing that the current global trend was for backward integration by steel producers, he argued that steel producers were looking to increase iron ore holdings and it is this search which has attracted FDI from Posco and Arcelor Mittal to Orissa and Jharkhand.
"Despite poor infrastructure scenario in these states, investors are coming forward to put up projects. If allotment of iron ore mines get delayed and remains uncertain, the projects may eventually" not see the light of the day, the ISA told the Prime Minister, the official said.
"We suggested to the Prime Minister that unless iron ore exports were curbed through policy measures, there will be an incentive for deliberate production of fines. In addition to the export duty, a quantitative limit should be levied at the level of exports of 2005-06 and it should be reduced co-terminus with the increase in the steel capacity," the ISA official said.
The ISA official said the steel industry has solicited the expertise of consultancy firm KPMG to study the mining policy of India and suggest optimal legal and operational ways of accessing and using iron ore in order to avoid litigations.
The Indian steel industry is at the crossroads and its future direction and growth will depend on the decisions taken by the government. Development of infrastructure will be an enabler as well as a driver of steel demand and hence fresh steel capacities need to come up to meet the country's growing demand for steel, he said.
"The Indian steel sector seeks government intervention and request that a suitable policy framework be created to promote the growth of the steel industry in India as steel is the backbone of industry and plays a major part in the transformation of a developing economy to a developed economy, the ISA official said
Technology has come to the aid of a language in danger of becoming extinct. And in the process, of a tribe denied a voice for decades.
The project — creation of a software module for learning the Santhali language — is the brainchild of two faculty members of the departments of computer science and engineering and comparative literature at Jadavpur University. It is being funded by World Bank under Technical Education for Quality Improvement Programme.
Eleven months into the scheme, Samantak Das and Anirban Ray Chaudhuri, with help from other faculty members, students and a handful of organisations, have developed a Santhali word processing software, similar to Microsoft Word, but with fewer functions. It supports Al Chiki, Bangla, Devnagari, Roman and Oriya scripts, all of which are used to write Santhali.
The software will enable Santhali books to be printed using the latest technology. In the past, publication of Santhali books has often been hampered by the lack of a dedicated word-processing software.
"The software has a glossary (Santhali-Bangla-English) of about 1,000 words and provides transliteration support. This is of great help to those who are familiar with the language but don't know all the scripts," says Das, head of the comparative literature department. For example, " tokoy", which means "who" in Santhali, only needs to be written in the Roman script in the software for its representation in Al Chiki to be found out.
According to the developers, the first standalone multi-script Santhali word processing software is very much a work in progress. It has generated interest among organisations working with Santhalis, some of which, like the e-group Wesanthals, have collaborated on the project.
The software will be embedded in low-cost hardware and provided free of cost to three Santhali agencies, says Ray Chaudhuri of the computer science department. The feedback from the agencies will determine the course of the software's development.
A teaching stint at Visva-Bharati prompted both Das and Ray Chaudhuri to take on the project. For them, it has been a labour of love. "We worked in our spare time, on a shoestring budget and had only two computers at our disposal. And we don't want it any other way," says Das.
Figures bear out the need for the project. The Santhali population is about 10 million and is spread out over parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and other Northeastern states. The literacy rate among the population is low (around 25 per cent) and the language survives primarily orally .
Dukhiram Hansda of Adivasi Socio Educational & Cultural Association asserts: "The software will emerge as a vital tool for the spread of Santhali. It will make publication of Santhali books simpler and thus help in the study of the language. Without spread of education, any language will die."
Husband escapes murder slur - Twelve-year-old boy bails out father
Hazaribagh, April 23: The 24-hour high drama over the dead body of a married woman petered out today in an anti-climax when the deceased's mother arrived from Kanpur and withdrew charges that her daughter was killed by her son-in-law.
The body of Sunita Bansal, who had allegedly committed suicide, lay in the crematorium for over 24 hours after her relatives called up the police, here, suspecting foul play.
The police consequently ordered Abhay Bansal not to cremate the dead body and wait for the arrival of his in-laws.
In cases involving women burning to death, husbands have often been arrested on suspicion, even sent to jail before being acquitted after long-drawn trials in court.
In this case, the husband owes his freedom to his 12-year-old son, who stood by his father from the beginning and told police that it was his mother who was at fault.
Bansal, a trader, and his twelve-year-old son, Rajat, stood guard over the decaying body till Bansal's in-laws arrived here today and satisfied themselves about his innocence.
While they spoke to the neighbours as well as Bansal, what tilted the scale was the testimony of the 12-year-old boy.
Rajat had all along maintained that his mother had committed suicide by setting herself on fire.
She had a mercurial temper and often quarrelled with his father , threatening to commit suicide and implicate him in her suicide note, he had claimed yesterday.
Today he repeated the claim before his maternal grandmother and apparently succeeded in convincing her that his father was innocent.
The relatives of the deceased then relented and allowed the body to be cremated and gave the go-ahead to the father-son duo for completing her last rites.
Recalling the evening of April 21, the 12-year-old boy declared that his father had rushed up after spotting smoke emanating from their rented flat.
But by then his mother had suffered severe burn injuries.
She was immediately taken to the sadar hospital, from where she was referred to Ranchi.
But she died on the way.
Mother of the deceased acknowledged that Sunita was impulsive and ill-tempered and she declared that she no longer had any complaint against her son-in-law.
Police officials said their investigation too confirmed that it was a case of suicide.
"But we shall wait for the post-mortem report before closing the case," they added.
KANPUR: Most of Mumbai bar girls, 95 per cent of them being from UP alone, were found to be infected with HIV. Summers are particularly conducive for spreading the scourge, as large number of migrant workers from UP and Bihar, working in the megapolis, come home and infect their spouses, according to Dr IPS Gilada.
HIV surfaces more in religious places than state capitals. After visiting temples, people believe that freed of their sins, they can resort to illicit sex. Surprisingly, temple town Tirupati has more HIV infected than a cosmopolitan Hyderabad. Likewise Varanasi has more people living with HIV / AIDS, than other cities. If the trend persists, then in the next 10 years, India would have the maximum number of HIV / AIDS cases, worldwide.
Dr Gilada, Mumbai based doctor, presented these chilling facts while delivering a guest lecture on `HIV-AIDS, what should we do,' here on Sunday, during GSVM Medical College golden jubilee celebrations. HIV is also transmitted with organ transplantation, breast milk, added Dr Gilada.
According to data, women constitute 40 per cent of HIV afflicted in India, 90 per cent of whom are monogamous. Now medicines are available that lowers the risk of transfer of HIV from infected mother to child, he added.
However, successful anti-aids vaccine would not be available until five years. Therefore Dr Gilada warned that taking precautions was the only way to protect oneself from HIV. Some vaccines are available that can prolong life of HIV / AIDS afflicted by 10 or 12 years, Dr Gilada added.
He also advised parents to tell children that they should resist those who touch their genitals or lure them with chocolates or take them to isolated spots. "In the era of cable TV and `choli' movies, ads about alcohol and sex, disco clubs, it is important to prepare the youth to face the world," remarked Gilada.
"Ab nahi aids khatarnak bimari- janch karane me hai samajhdari" , quipped Gilada. He advised people to go in for test after having unsafe sex or suspecting infection. "The test can confirm HIV presence between three weeks and three months," added Giladi.
Dr Brijendra Nigam, demanded an anti retrial therapy (ART) centre for the city as HIV / AIDS graph is going up drastically, on the lines of those existing in Lucknow and Varanasi.
Seismic survey operations begin in Bihar-GV-ONN-2002/1
Seismic survey operations to be carried out by Cairn India will begin in Bihar this week. An airborne geomagnetic survey of the block has just finished and is being followed by the 2D seismic survey programme. It is anticipated that the 2D seismic field operations will be completed by the end of June 2007 before the commencement of the monsoon.
The onshore NELP IV block GV-ONN-2002/1 in northern Bihar was awarded under a production sharing contract (PSC) by the Government of India in 2004.
The seismic survey operations are scheduled to start in the districts of Samastipur, Darbhanga and Madhubani. The programme covers an area from Dalsinghsarai in the South to Jainagar in the North and from Singhwara and Ladania in the West and East respectively. Approximately 500 Line kilometres of data will be acquired. The aim of the seismic survey is to understand the structures below the surface.
A large team of skilled and specialized personnel will be deputed to Bihar, but there will be a requirement for the temporary engagement of a number of unskilled personnel during the course of the five month survey, many of whom will be sourced from the local community.
As part of the survey programme small teams of personnel with satellite navigation equipment will place marker pegs on the ground. Further teams will be drilling shallow holes along each survey line and they will be followed by the main seismic survey team who will lay out cables and equipment.
Cairn India permit teams will be present in all stages of the operation to explain the survey and associated crop compensation process to the farmers and local people. Company representatives are meeting with agricultural representatives in each district to discuss crop prices. Farmers are expected to be compensated within weeks of the survey moving over their properties.
The GV-ONN-2002/1 block in north Bihar is within the Ganga Basin, which is one of the largest sedimentary basins of India, but is under-explored and no hydrocarbons have yet been discovered. As per the PSC Cairn India has a seven year exploration period comprising of three phases, which commenced from the issue of the Petroleum Exploration Licence on 8th June 2005. As operator of the PSC, Cairn India holds a 50% interest in this Block with joint venture partner Cairn Energy PLC, through its subsidiary Capricorn Energy Limited, holding the remaining 50% interest .
ZHENGZHOU, China, April 23, 2007 – Today in Henan province, Chinese government officials take ownership of two "InfoWagons" designed to open up new avenues of digital literacy for rural citizens.
At a small village at Luohe, Henan Province in Central China, Will Poole, corporate vice president at Microsoft, participated in a rollout ceremony marking the delivery of two of six InfoWagons donated by Microsoft as part of an innovative rural computing pilot program. The high-tech buses — each outfitted with 15 student PCs and one instructor PC — will serve as computer training centers on wheels as they circulate to rural villages throughout one of China's most populous province.
Poole and other Microsoft executives also attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch the Integrated Information Training Center at Luohe township.
A relatively underdeveloped and primarily agricultural province, Henan is identified by Microsoft and MII as well-suited to a rural computing general services pilot program. The overall goal of Microsoft's rural computing programs is to empower people by introducing them to the benefits of information and communications technology (ICT). The effort is central to Microsoft's global rural computing vision and comes under the umbrella of Microsoft Unlimited Potential, an initiative that reflects the company's commitment to promote sustained social and economic opportunity for the estimated 5 billion people worldwide who are underserved by technology.
"The entire IT industry agrees that technology access and affordability in the rural computing space is required, but relevance is an equally important consideration," Poole says. "We, as an industry, need to work together to provide technology that has real application and usefulness in people's lives. For example, delivering services that people find relevant for agriculture, healthcare, education and skills training, will help to address the unique needs of rural communities."
Microsoft is working with China's MII and the provincial governments to extend the benefits of technology to rural populations. Leading the drive are the six InfoWagons equipped with desktop PCs and IT tutors. To deliver services relevant to Chinese farmers and their families, the proposed InfoWagon pilot applications target real-life scenarios accruing to home, work and community. The concept includes PC@home to deliver healthcare information, entertainment and education; PC@work, which focuses on information browsing related to agriculture, crop prices and supply chain management; and PC@community, which focuses on an Information Center for computer training, information search, e-government and e-commerce experiences with the intention of improving the connection of China's rural farmers with the global marketplace and the government.
Deployed initially in Henan and later expanding into the four additional provinces, the roving InfoWagons will give rural villagers the opportunity to experience and learn basic PC skills. Microsoft estimates that as many as 8,000 people will get trained this way by the end of 2007. Within five years, the InfoWagons are expected to reach 6,000 villages and bring digital literacy to 150,000 people.
To help sustain the digital literacy efforts initiated by the InfoWagon program, Microsoft plans to establish a permanent Integrated Information Training Center (IITC) in Henan. Also as follow-up, Microsoft plans to create a social computing environment in which wealthier farmers in dozens of villages agree to host donated computers in their homes and make them available for other farmers and community members to use.
Furthering Rural Information Efforts in China
Microsoft has also teamed up with partners in Shandong province on another endeavor to promote technology access for rural residents of China. Called the Shandong Rural Worker's PC Program, the effort is part of the global Microsoft Partnerships for Technology Access (PTA) initiative. The Rural Worker's PC Program, which is the first PTA in China, links Microsoft China and Shandong's provincial government, the Department of Information Industry (DII), along with Intel Corp., Chinese PC manufacturer Haier and local broadband provider ChinaNetCom.
As with other Microsoft PTA projects implemented around the world, the Shandong Rural Worker's PC Program is tailored around a government priority to improve the delivery of services using technology. PTA programs typically combine the know-how and resources of governments, technology companies, banks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help increase access to PCs and use technology to build economic and social opportunity within developing economies.
In support of the government's commitment to a more "harmonious society" across the rural-urban divide, and as part of Microsoft's Partnerships for Technology Access (PTA) initiative, Microsoft formed a public-private partnership (PPP) with the government of Shandong province, ChinaNetCom (CNC), Haier, and Intel to put a PC purchase within reach of rural workers. To make the PC relevant, as well as affordable, the Shandong Rural Worker's PC Program is designed around four modules of applications relevant to farmers – farming activity, education, health, and entertainment. This effort is complementary to the government's service transformation initiative to better serve farmers through e-government. To enable e-government, farmers need technology access and targeted services that will make technology adoption worth their while.
The stations are also designed to be self-sustaining models that benefit the rural communities that host them, while also providing retail or catalog outlets for the partners Haier and ChinaNetCom. The retail enhanced business model allows partners to provide technology solutions at a free or discounted cost to the government, who then offers the PC usage for free to the community.
Applications packaged on the PCs will focus on the four key areas identified as most user-relevant: agricultural production, such as giving rural workers access to online market information, crop pricing and government regulatory information; entertainment, such as movies and photo albums; access to healthcare resources and information; and access to educational content available on the Web.
Enabling Access to Basic Needs and Growth Opportunities in Rural India
Bipin Mishra, a kiosk operator in rural Madhubani, Bihar State, India, facilitating a videoconferencing session for Lalita Devi with a doctor in the city of Patna, India. March 2007 Click image for high-res version.
In India, Microsoft's efforts to empower digitally disenfranchised rural populations include teaming up with an industry partner, Drishtee Dot Com Ltd., to implement pilot programs addressing e-commerce and e-health, and small scale business process outsourcing needs.
The e-commerce program, is a grass-roots effort that aims to provide global market linkages and a transparent, fair distribution channel to poor rural artisans with ICT intervention. The primary component of the project is a Web-based marketplace ( http://www.drishteehaat.com/) where creations by rural artisans (paintings, cloth embroidery, bamboo crafts, etc.) are showcased. Customers can browse the wares online, place orders and even request custom merchandise. Artisans access ICT kiosks in their villages to add product information to the portal and collect customer requirements. Some success has been demonstrated – artisans have experienced a 35-percent increase in income as well as greater process transparency, with final payment within 15 days of customers making a payment, as opposed to four months in the conventional distribution chain. Artisans also express a greater degree of comfort with and trust in the system.
Bachcho Devi of Jitwarpur village explains: "I have been painting for the last 40 years. But I have never received so many orders within such a short period as I have done since I registered with Drishtee. In two months, I sold 12 paintings and earned 10,000 rupees. I have never been able to earn such a big amount within 60 days before."
"We're proud to be middlemen, but we're passing on information along with the product," explains Satyan Mishra, managing director at Drishtee. "Our survey revealed that if a painting was being bought for 1,000 rupees in Delhi or the U.S., excluding freight cost, then the artist was only 100 rupees for it. Now if a painting is sold for1,000 to 1,200 rupees,then the artist gets at least 250-300, so we've added a substantial value to their work."
Meanwhile, an e-health pilot program that Microsoft has undertaken, again in partnership with Drishtee, aims to provide an affordable, reliable healthcare alternative for rural communities in India. To address the lack of doctors in the villages — and the time and cost associated with traveling to a primary healthcare center — the telemedicine program provides medical assessments and counseling at ICT kiosks, through videoconferencing sessions with doctors. This is supported by linkages with a network of rural healthcare centers and district hospitals. The community thus has the option of first-level interaction with a genuine, qualified doctor within walking distance of their homes.
The kiosks at the front end of this system are equipped with a remote diagnostics kit for monitoring patient vital signs, such as temperature, blood pressure and cardiac health. These readings are then transmitted in real time to a doctor in a different location. The application built into the kit also enables storage of the patient information at a secure, centralized server, and enables the patient-doctor videoconferencing, which is currently being tested. In the future, testing of the videoconferencing tool may also extend to effective doctor-to-doctor interaction. For example, a primary-care doctor who conducts mobile health camps in villages could use the system to link up with a specialist for further consultation.
A doctor at a clinic in Patna, Bihar State, India talking to patients in remote villages. March 2007. Click image for high-res version
A third type of Microsoft pilot program deployed in India is rural business process outsourcing (BPO), an initiative that aims to increase job opportunities and improve skill development. This initiative works towards setting up ICT kiosks in rural areas. These kiosks provide employment and skill-building opportunities for the local population. The kiosks offer services (such as data entry, data management, content localization, and engineering drawing) to companies located in urban areas at lower costs, with quality levels equivalent to similar service offerings in towns. Further benefits to urban industry include access to an untapped workforce with lower rates of attrition and multilingual capabilities. For the rural community, these centers provide earning opportunity along with learning and capacity building, particularly for local youth and women.
The Rural BPO initiative in India is led by the TeNet (Telecommunications and Computer Networking) group at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, (IIT-M) in Chennai with ideation and concept development participation by Microsoft.
Microsoft also supports digital inclusion in India through an innovative multi-party research project called Digital StudyHall. A collaborative effort supported by Microsoft Research India, Digital StudyHall seeks to improve education in low-income areas by establishing a low-cost infrastructure for sharing user-generated video. Digital StudyHall is building an extensive digital video database of K-12 materials generated through grassroots contributions. Simultaneously, education experts and teachers are exploring pedagogical approaches in which local teachers actively mediate the video lessons. Project supporters hope this community participation model will help train better teachers while delivering high-quality instruction to underprivileged children.
Digital StudyHall has deployed pilot "hubs" in three cities in India, and the digital video database currently includes 550 high-quality recordings of lessons in English, math and science spanning five languages. The research project shows promising change and is expected to be expanded to two additional countries over the next year.
Scalable, sustainable approaches to shared access and delivery of ICT
Microsoft's commitment to create sustainable ICT access for underserved populations also spans a range of work in the area of telecenters — shared-access sites where public computers are made available on a no-charge or low-cost basis and provide additional services. Telecenters can be configured as community centers, learning centers or business centers, providing places where people can meet, communicate, learn new skills, get an online degree or access other relevant information resources.
Microsoft recognizes that the need for telecenters is greatest in underserved and rural communities. In India, for example, 70 percent of the population resides in rural areas, and an estimated 90 percent of the country's labor force remains trapped in low-productivity, informal-sector jobs, according to the May 2002, People's Daily News. In China, 61 percent of the population resides in rural areas as sited in the Worldbank India Country Overview 2006. The need for ICT access also extends to general rural areas and underserved communities in urban areas. For example, even people living in rural areas of the United States or Western Europe may need to travel half a day to access basic healthcare such as primary diagnostics and preventive medical advice.
To help alleviate such problems in developing as well as developed countries, Microsoft works with various governments and telecenter networks worldwide in an advisory role and technology provider capacity to collaborate on creating sustainable, scalable approaches to shared access. One recent effort is "Making the Connection: Scaling Telecentres for Development," a resource guide targeted to governments, entrepreneurs and private-sector and community leaders. The book — a collaboration between the Academy for Educational Development, telecentre.org and Microsoft — provides a set of frameworks, best practices and case studies to guide telecenter development and helps organize the collective thinking that has accompanied the telecenter movement. Intended as a catalyst for new projects, it includes successes and failures as well as a specific focus on the factors critical to sustainability and scalability at national levels
Microsoft also recently announced the launch of a community Web site called Telecenter Knowledge Network, created in cooperation with telecentre.org. The site is intended to serve as a constantly evolving community site where those involved with telecenter programs can share their findings, experiences and best practices with the broader community. The Web site also serves as a repository of peer knowledge and resources that can be used by individuals or organizations planning to develop or scale telecenter programs. For example, the content in the "Making the Connection" book is posted on the Telecenter Knowledge Network site in an open format where the worldwide telecenter community can access it and expand upon it in a variety of ways, from topically oriented expertise, such as networks or services, to country profiles, intended to create a snapshot of local initiatives.
BURDWAN: Police claimed to have busted an international skeleton smuggling racket on Monday with the recovery of around 50 human skulls and skeletal remains from a house at Purabsthali area in Burdwan district. These skeletons were to be shipped to buyers in China, Bangladesh and Hong Kong, with each fetching Rs 1,200-2,400.
Raids at the house led to the arrest of six people. They were produced at the Katwa court where their bail petition was rejected.
IGP (law and order) Raj Kanojia said more raids would follow on the basis of their confessions. The police have proof that the gang was involved in digging up graves elsewhere in Burdwan, too, he said. CID has been told to probe the case.
Acting on a tip-off on Sunday night, three police teams led by ASP (headquarters) Chirantan Nag raided the house. After digging around the house, they recovered skulls and bones wrapped in bundles.
The skulls and bones were sent to the forensic department to determine how long the skulls had been in the Purabsthali house.
"We have reason to believe the gang has been operating in this area for at least five years,"said Burdwan SP Peeyush Pandey.
The six gang members, led by alleged kingpin Mukti Biswas, were arrested from a spot between Patuli and Jogyeswar Ghat on the river Bhagirathi. They claimed the bones were used to make aphrodisiacs. "We have to verify the claim,"said Pandey.
Sources said three of the gang members — Bairagya, Bhola and Ashok — would collect corpses from burial grounds and hand them over to Mukti, Tarun and Samaresh, who were responsible for processing and delivery of the consignment.
The police are probing whether bodies were procured from places other than burial grounds. Kanojia hinted that some of the bodies may have been retrieved while floating on rivers.
The district police got inkling about the racket when four skeletons were dug out of a burial ground at Goda on Wednesday. An alert was issued to all district police stations to look out for the gang.
One among India's top 10 B-schools, the Xavier's Institute of Management (XIM), Bhubaneshwar will soon be opening another campus in India . The institute has big expansion plans and is scouting for a 100 acre land in Orissa near its existing campus in Bhubaneshwar.
The new campus will be an extension of the Bhubaneshwar campus and XIM will need Rs 50 crore to go ahead with its expansion plans. The institute plans to raise the money through alumni support and other sources.
XIM has applied to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for permission to double the student admission capacity for both -- its full-time and part-time business management programme. Currently the institute admits 60 students each to both the programmes and plans to increase the student capacity to 120 in the next year.
The institute also plans to increase the capacity further by 60 students in the next five years. It will celebrate 25 years of its existence in 2012 and wants to complete the expansion plans by then. "Once we have appropriate infrastructure -- hostels, classrooms and faculty in place for new students -- we will look at increasing the student capacity further," says Father E Abraham, director XIM-B.
The institute has recently increased its fee from Rs 3.96 lakh to Rs 4.35 lakh for the two-year business management programme. The increase will come in effect this year. Says an XIM-B professor, "The increase in cost of education along with other expense like infrastructure maintenance, salary revision of faculty members and upgradation of facilities for students has made us revise our fee structure." The new campus will have more emphasis on technology based learning. "We already have video conferencing facility in our present institute. We plan to bring it more in use at the new campus," says Abraham.
XIM-B's idea to have another campus in Orissa comes from the fact that steel and IT companies are setting up base in the state. South Korean steel major Posco and Arcelor Mittal have already announced plans to set up plants in Orissa and IT majors Infosys and Wipro too are bullish on the state. "This industrialisation of the state is a positive signal and will help us gain a stronger ground considering our brand value with the corporates," says Abraham.
Incidentally, placements at the institute this year saw JP Morgan Chase offering the highest domestic salary of Rs 12.75 lakh per annum to the PGDBM batch. The highest international offer made was by Olam International at US $85,000 (Rs 37.4 lakh) per annum. The average salary for the batch rose by 23 per cent this year and stood at Rs 8.77 lakh per annum. The average domestic salary was Rs 8.52 lakh per annum while the median salary was Rs 8.5 lakh per annum. The institute saw maximum representation from he IT industry including companies like IBM, Cognizant, Infosys, TCS, Mindtree, Wipro, et al.
A total of 98 companies across sectors had shown interest in recruiting students and 72 of them were slotted for the final placement process. New companies on campus included HLL, Dell International, Deloitte Consulting, UBS, HSBC Global Resourcing, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Idea Cellular, Hutch, Grow Talent, Centurion Bank of Punjab etc.
BALASORE, April 23: The Balasore Alloys, a part of Ispat group of companies, also a leading manufacturer of ferro alloys in Orissa, has achieved a mile stone by receiving TPM (total productive maintenance) recently. The distinction has been obtained by the company much before the scheduled target date.
The Japanese Institute of Plant maintenance auditors complemented the company for being the first manufacturer of ferro alloys in getting the TPM certificate.
The company had also received significant awards and recognition like India Manufacturing Excellence Award conferred in November 2006, Leader and Prestige and Quality Europe-06 for its management performance and export award from EECP The company has been awarded with best productivity award for large and medium sectors for year 2006-07 for its significant improvement in productivity. Mr Rabindra Kumar Jena, the joint managing director of the company, received the award from Mr BL Raina of the eastern zone of CII.
"It was a land mark achievement for us as we are declared first among several industries in Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgrah and West Bengal.
For sustainable economic and social development to take place in any country, it is necessary that people participate in the political process. The process of participation is complex- and it is by no means clear that it is comprehensively inclusive. By this, I mean that it is not possible to assume that all sections of the population take part effectively in the political and democratic processes of society.
There are many reasons why people may not participate: from apathy to a sense of helplessness.
The institution of Panchayati Raj is specifically designed for the rural population with the basic objective of democratic decentralization and devolution of power with a view to ensuring rapid socio-economic progress with every individual being the architect of his/her own government.
'Panchayat' literally means assembly (yat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen and accepted by the village community. Traditionally, these assemblies settled the disputes between individuals.
Villages responsible for their governance
Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, as a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own governance. He coined the term "Gram Swaraj", which when translated into English means Independent Village Republics. It was indeed the prophetic ability of the father of our nation to see that a country, which is primarily rural, cannot develop if the people in its villages are unable to make decisions that affect them most. The same sentiment was also expressed by our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, when he stated the following:
"India is poor because the villages of India are poor. India will be rich if the villages of India are rich. Panchayats should be given greater power; for we want the villagers to have a greater measure of real swaraj (self-government) in their own villages".
The founding fathers Independent India recognized the concept of self-governance vide Article 40 in the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution and provided for the setting up of village Panchayats. However, as the Directive principles of State Policy are non-justiciable there was no pressure on any state to set up such a system. Many saw this Article as a concession to Gandhi, rather than as a serious matter to be immediately implemented.
After independence, India has strived to accelerate the process of development through active participation of the people at the grass-root level. The decentralization of socio-economic development programmes was conceptualized as early as the First Five year Plan. It was envisaged that the villages would undertake and execute the programmes of development with actual support of the State. The Community Development Programme launched in 1952 was a first step in this direction. Development was conceived as an integrated process. A need was felt for building development administration, which would be sensitive to the aspirations and needs of the people. This led to creation of development blocks. The community development programme was thought to be a pioneering step in the process of decentralized planning. It was expected to induce transformation in the rural areas with a focus on agriculture. However, it was soon realized that it had not been able to serve the purpose, to a large extent, because of excessive bureaucratic control. As a result it failed to mobilize and involve the rural masses in taking decisions about the activities that affected their lives directly.
Significance of decentralization
The significance of decentralization in accelerating the process of development was emphasized by the Balwantrai Mehta Committee (1957) which was set-up to make recommendations on new structures to be created to involve local people in the development process. The committee recommended the "establishment of an interconnected three-tier organizational structure of democratic decentralization at the village, block and district levels". This led to the enactment of the Panchayati Raj Acts in various states in the fifties to implement the recommendations. However, the interest and support for Panchayati Raj, did not last long due to various reasons.
In the year 1993, the union government amended the Constitution of India. The amendments known as the 73rd and the 74th amendments, mandated the empowerment of local governments-rural and urban respectively, as constitutional entities. The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India constituted a new chapter in the process of democratic decentralization in India. The amendments were seen as a revolution based on maximum democracy and maximum devolution.
The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 envisages States to establish a three-tier system of strong, viable and responsive Panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels. It also lays out 29 areas of responsibility that have been given to the Panchayats, which cover almost all aspects of village life.
Similarly, the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 envisages the establishment in municipalities in the urban areas. States are expected to devolve adequate powers, responsibilities and finances upon these bodies so as to enable them to prepare plans and implement schemes for economic development and social justice. These Acts provide a basic framework of decentralization of powers and authorities to the Panchayati Raj/Municipal bodies at different levels. However, responsibility for giving it a practical shape rests with the States. States are expected to act in consonance with the spirit of the Acts for establishing a strong and viable system of local self- government.
The Panchayat Raj system has a three-tier structure, viz (i) the Village Panchayat or the Gram Panchayat, (ii) the Panchayat Samitis and (iii) the Zila Parishad.
These bodies, which are legally local government, have pyramidal structure. At the base is the gram Sabha – the entire body of citizens in a village of "Grama". This is the general body that elects the local government and charges it with specific responsibilities. This body is expected to meet at specific times and approve major decisions taken by the elected body. (Above this basic unit of democracy, is) the Gram Panchayat, which is the first level elected body.
The middle rung institutions are the Panchayati Samitis, which function as the Block Level; each Block consists of many villages. Finally, there are the Zila Parishads that function as the District Level. The purpose of these two institutions is mainly to co-ordinate the activities of the Gram Panchayats and to provide them with such capacities that cannot be created solely at the micro level. The powers that these Panchayats enjoy are enshrined in the laws enacted by each state, and, in India, there is considerable variation across states.
Responsive to people's needs
In a geographically vast and demographically diverse country such as India where the center of power can often be unresponsive to the needs of a particular locality or community, the Panchayati Raj is intended to be a means to allow these communities/villages to make their own decisions that affect their development. With 70% of India's billion plus population living in its more that 500,000 villages, the Panchayati Raj scheme was meant to ensure that challenges facing rural India are not solely solved by top-down, bureaucratic interventions. As the Noel laureate Amartya Sen has so definitively demonstrated, it is empowerment that leads to entitlements and entitlements that lead to enrichment. Today, with elections having been held to approximately 250,000 Panchayats, India is one of the most representative democracies in the world.
Recognizing limitations where gender is concerned, India has passed laws that make it mandatory for local governments to include women. One third of the seats in local bodies – gram or village panchayats, municipalities, city corporations and district bodies – are reserved for women. India is also the only country to ensure that out of 3 million elected office bearers, more than one million are women.
Today new provisions relating to the 73rd and 74th amendments have been incorporated in Part IX of the Constitution in India. As this point, I would like to introduce to you the basic features of part IX of the Constitution.
* Constitutional status to the Panchayats, giving them uniformity by making the three-tier system a permanent feature.
* Panchayats to be constituted in every State at three tiers: the village, intermediate and district level, except in States with a population not exceeding 2 million where there will be only village and district Panchayats.
* Establishing a village Assembly or Gram Sabha in each village, which would exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level, as the State may provide by law.
* Members of Panchayats at all levels will be elected through direct elections. The election of the chairperson at the intermediate and district level will be through indirect elections.
* Seats are reserved for marginalized communities called Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes at all levels according to their population. Not less than one-third of seats are reserved for women.
* The office of chairperson will also be subject to this provision of reservation.
* A uniform five-year term has been granted to the Panchayats. However, in case of premature dissolution, elections must be held within six months of the date of dissolution.
* Panchayats are tacked with (i) preparing plans and implementing schemes for social justice and economic development; (ii) in regard to matters listed in the 11th Schedule.
* State legislature authorizes the Panchayats to levy, collect and appropriate suitable local taxes. The Government can make grants-in-aid to the Panchayats from the Consolidated Fund of the concerned State.
* Review of the financial position of the Panchayats will be undertaken by a State Finance Commission, which shall be constituted every five years.
* State Election Commissions shall be constituted in each state to ensure free and fair elections to the Panchayats.
Provisions relating to elections and constitution of Panchayats, reservations of elective offices for women and for the marginalized communities, setting up of an independent Finance Commission and State Election Commissioner in each State, maintenance of accounts and their audit are what might be described as mandatory provisions. These have been by and large complied with and have made Panchayati Raj irreversible at the grass roots.
When we look as the achievements of the previous decade- one thing is very clear. The innovation has empowered the village community. Along with widening the democratic base of India's polity and bringing about significant changes in India's federalism, Panchayati Raj has led to an amazing development – the emergence of women as leaders. Their participation at the three levels – district, sub-district and village level, has not only led to their personal growth but has also enabled them to respond to the needs of the more vulnerable sections of the village community. No doubt, there are many instances of women Panchayat members encountering resistance and exclusion, but there are now large numbers of women who are shouldering, with grace and dignity, enormous administrative responsibilities. In certain parts of India they have brought to their offices-immense courage, enthusiasm and creativity. Leadership in Panchayats has transformed them and their communities. They seem to have enjoyed their role and there is no greater proof for this than the fact that instead of the constitutionally reserved one third, women members and office bearers in Panchayats today account for approximately forty two per cent of the elected representatives. If there is one exhilarating aspect of the Constitutional provisions relating to Panchayats- it is this empowerment- with its elements of a high level of self-confidence and self-esteem combined with political awareness and a spirit of service.
The Panchayats in tribal areas of nine states- in what is called- Schedule V Areas have been given a special legal dispensation over what is available elsewhere. This special law is called The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Area) Act 1996 and it has been enacted in consonance with an enabling provision in the Constitution. This law recognizes the rights of tribal communities over natural resources, respects their traditional institutions and gives vast powers of self-governance to the tribal communities. The powers that are vested in the Gram Sabha authorize it to approve all development plans, control all functionaries and institutions in social sectors as well as manage water bodies and other natural resources, have ownership of minor forest produce, prevent alienation of land, manage village markets and resolve disputes. This remarkable law is the first law to empower people to redefine their own administrative boundaries.
As three fourths of the Indian population is in the rural areas and dependent on agriculture, we need inclusive and integrated growth. We need to integrate agricultural markets across the country and remove constraints. For Panchayats to effectively implement schemes of economic development, the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India has forged a unique partnership with the Confederation of Indian industry for developing "Rural Business Hubs" through Panchayats on lines of the Chinese model of rural business hubs. The initiative aims at establishing direct linkages between the rural economy and corporate houses with an objective to utilize the locally-available resources and to brand and market rural products. These rural business hubs would be a bridge between the rural entrepreneurs and the corporate houses, thus channelising the latent resources at the village level. Indian corporate giants, like ITC (Indian Tobacco Company), HLL ( Hindustan Level Limited-the Indian arm of Unilever) and Reliance Industries, to name a few have developed innovative initiatives to tap into rural markets and establish supply chains for their produce.
Today the Panchayats are being further strengthened by being made the principal authorities for planning and implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 aims at enhancing livelihood security in rural India by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year.
As for the challenges that have been faced in the effective implementation of the Panchayati Raj, there have been many. In certain cases, at the local level, the bureaucratic methods of the state governments has slowly started to influence the functioning of the Panchayati Raj, apart from negatively affecting the transparency of the Panchayat system. There are instances in many states where the Gram Panchayats were being dominated by the higher castes, thereby marginalizing the lower castes. Thus, in some cases, the Panchayat was becoming an institution to perpetuate the caste inequities that already existed.
Although, the constitutional amendment was an empowering tool for local self governance in India, it was not a panacea for all the problems being faced by the Panchayati Raj system. The power rooted in caste, class, gender and sometimes even religion determines the very functioning of the Panchayati Raj system. While, legal reservations for these disempowered classes allows them access to the Panchayati system, it does not necessarily remove the larger power structure, which continues to determine who will have the final say in the functioning of the Panchayat. The real change will occur when in the informal power structures become more egalitarian.
I think I have been able to give you some kind of an idea of India's Panchayati Raj. Indeed there are still miles to go, but we have made a beginning and in its ten years of fully formalized existence the Panchayati Raj system has been able to initiate important socio-political changes for the betterment of rural India.