RAIPUR: Nine policemen were killed and two injured in simultaneous landmine blasts triggered by outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) cadres in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district late on Monday, police said.
The incident took place in a thickly forested stretch of Mardapal area, about 320 km south of capital Raipur, when rebels detonated a string of 15 landmines targeting a group of about a dozen state police personnel who were on a search operation on motorcycles.
"Nine policemen have died and two injured in coordinated simultaneous landmine blasts triggered by Maoist militants," Girdhari Nayak, inspector general of police in charge of anti-Maoist operations, told IANS over telephone.
He added that the rebels looted 12 weapons from the slain policemen but he refused give the details of the weapons.
In another incident, Maoists killed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel Monday evening in forested Gangloor area in Bijapur district, about 522 km south of here
Monday 28th of May 2007 Eight children Monday escaped from a remand home in Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand, police said.
The children, one of whom is facing a murder charge, escaped after attacking two security guards on duty at the remand home Hazaribagh, 100 km from here.
Police have launched an operation to arrest the children and a probe into their escape.
Jharkhand has witnessed such incidents frequently. According to an official estimate nearly 40 juveniles have escaped from the remand homes in Ranchi, Hazaribagh and other cities in the last five years.
Probes into previous incidents revealed that poor quality food and ill-treatment of the inmates were the prime reasons for the children to flee.
Jharkhand reeling under heat wave
Ranchi, May 28: Jharkhand is reeling under a heat wave with no forecast for rains in the days to come.
State capital Ranchi recorded 39.4 degree Celsius Sunday. The highest temperature this summer recorded in the city, which was was once the summer capital of Bihar before the state was bifurcated, was 40 degree Celsius.
The highest temperature in the state was recorded in steel city Jamshedpur with 44.7 degree Celsius, followed by Bokaro and Dhanbad with 44.6 and 44 degree Celsius respectively.
The temperature in Ranchi has increased by four degrees in last four days. The meteorological department predicts that mercury will rise higher in the city.
Ranchi has a history of getting rainfall after a rise in mercury but this time the weatherman has no word of hope to offer.
"The cloud which is formed goes upward and the cloud moving upward in the sky does not cause rain. The cloud formation at lower strata will take place and we can expect rain in Ranchi then," said A. Wadood, a meteorologist.
"The climate of Ranchi has changed drastically in last few years. There was a time when fans were enough but now air conditioners are a must," said S. N. Roy, an octogenarian resident of Ranchi.
Release those arrested for attacking Reliance: Jharkhand vendors
Ranchi, May 28 (IANS) Vegetable vendors of Jharkhand have demanded a high-level probe into the vandalising of Reliance Fresh outlets two weeks back and release of the people arrested during the attack.
The vendors protesting against Reliance retail outlets - whose arrival had hurt their business - had turned violent and attacked three newly opened stores in Ranchi damaging property worth millions. Police had arrested 17 people and baton-charged the mobs injuring many.
They demonstrated in front of the deputy commissioner's office here Saturday.
"A high-level probe should be instituted to find out the truth about the incident. We also demand release of the vendors arrested by police. How come police remained mute spectators when two outlets were attacked," Nagendra Mahto, a member of the Vegetable Sellers' Association (VSA), asked Sunday.
Suresh Sahu, another member of the association, said: "In a democratic set up everyone has a right to protest but there is a move to suppress our voice".
"We are caught between police and economic loss. For us it is a question of survival with the arrival of Reliance in vegetable business," he said.
The vendors are also unhappy with the state government.
"The state government has become a puppet in the hands of capitalists. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government boasted of working for the poor but it is no way different from the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government," said Kunti Devi, a vegetable vendor. "The previous NDA government signed agreements with big companies and this government is helping big companies to sell vegetables to push us to starvation," she said.
The vendors have also got support from former defence minister George Fernandes who came to Ranchi to express solidarity with them.
Over 100 rescued child labourers rehabilitated in Jharkhand
Ramgarh (Jharkhand), May 27: Over hundred girl child labourers, rescued from various shops and roadside eateries, are now living a rehabilitated life at Ramgarh in Jharkhand.
Thanks to the initiatives taken by Jan Seva Parishad, a non-governmental organization (NGO), which is making the rehabilitation of such children possible with the support of the Jharkhand authorities.
On an average, the State Government spends at least rupees 18 on each of the young student-cum-apprentice at the institutions being run by Jan Seva Parishad.
"Earlier, I used to work in coal mines. Once I got to know about this Jan Seva Parishad, I sought admission here. I learnt candle-making, soap-making, stitching," said Neetu Kumari, a student.
"I earn Rs.35 a day. I don't go to coal mines anymore. I have joined a school and studying," said Kunti Kumari, another student.
The girls are given a nine-month training that includes formal education till fifth standard along with vocational training like candle making, stitching, embroidery and others.
"We bring these girls from coal mines, roadside eateries and other places. We have a training centre since 2005 for such girls. We provide training to a batch of 50 girls every nine month. Here, these girls learn candle making, stitching, soap making etc," said Manju Devi, a Jan Seva Parishad staff.
Once the students prepare some items, these are marketed by the Jan Seva Parishad and the money earned is distributed among these working children as per their due.
Jan Seva Parishad, which operates as a voluntary body dedicated to social causes, has taken up the social responsibility to effectively utilize the Central government's policy prohibiting employment of children below 14 years of age in domestic as well as industrial and commercial spheres.
Founded in 2005, Jan Seva Parishad has set up a school as well as a vocational training centre from where hundreds of girls have benefited from these two institutions in the last two years.
The Jharkhand Government endorsed Jan Seva Parishad in the ambit of National Child Labourer Rehabilitation Centre, on June 15, 2006.
Despite Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and an array of other legislations India has more of child labourers than any other country.
It is estimated that there are nearly 11 million of child labourers in India which many opine as a mere tip of the ice-berg.
NEW DELHI: In one of the biggest ever seizures in the Red terror zone, the CRPF on Friday recovered nearly 800 kilograms of explosive material, including gelatine sticks, kept in eight plastic water tanks, from the Latehar forest area during an anti-Naxal operation in Jharkhand.
The paramilitary force, which carried out the joint operation along with the state police, also detected a huge cache of arms and ammunition from the area which was subsequently identified as a major 'arms dump' of Maoists in Jharkhand.
The seizure, which could just be a tip of the iceberg, was made following the arrest of a Naxal commander Abhishek who told the security agencies about the Red ultras' hideouts in the entire Latehar-Garhwa-Palamu belt. Though the Maoists managed to
slip away after a fierce encounter, they could not save their 'arms dump' having 12,000 rounds of ammunition, 15 rifles (SLR and AK-47), a huge quantity of detonators and a bagful of Naxal literature — comprising details of their recently held congress — from being seized by the security personnel.
CRPF inspector-general (operations) A P Maheshwari said: "We are putting pressure on Naxalites in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh by carrying out these operations. We have had good success recently in neutralising a number of Maoists in these states."
Steel Sells and it sells big time. There can be no better example of this than Steel Authority of India (SAIL), the country's largest steel maker. The navratna company's performance in FY07 beat market expectations. SAIL has also yielded higher returns than other steel companies and appears all set to maintain its lead in the steel sector.
FINANCIALS: A strong demand for steel and an improved product mix have benefited SAIL. FY07 was special as the company recorded a 5% year-on-year increase in steel production at 12.6 million tonnes (mt). Sales were also at a high at 11.9 mt, making FY07 one of the best financial years for the company. Sales grew 22% to Rs 35,343 crore, while profit rose 54% to Rs 6,261 crore. Effective cost controls and an improved product mix have helped the company to increase its operating profit margins to 29%, up 5% over FY06.
OUTLOOK: Steel prices were up almost 10% during FY07 compared to last year. Industry sources rule out further price hikes. The government is also trying to find ways to control steel prices, which could lead to little or no price hikes in the coming fiscal. Any further growth is expected to come from higher volumes and increasing efficiencies. SAIL meets nearly 100% of its iron ore requirements from captive mines. The large Chiria mines in Jharkhand, which fulfill a sizeable portion of SAIL's iron-ore needs, are currently at the centre of an ongoing squabble between SAIL and the Jharkhand government. It remains to be seen whether SAIL will continue to meet its growing ore requirements via captive mines. The company continues to rationalise its manpower. During FY07, SAIL cut its workforce by 6,588 to 1,32,973 even as per capita steel production touched 200 tonnes per annum.
EXPANSION PLANS: SAIL's steel production will rise by almost 1.5 mt during FY08 through better utilisation. It plans to expand production to 22.5 mt by '12. The company approved expansion plans totalling Rs 23,500 crore in FY07. It has also approved expansion plan worth Rs 8,000 crore for FY08. The total value of projects taken up has now gone up to Rs 46,000 crore.
VALUATIONS: At current prices, the stock is trading at 9-10 times its FY07 earnings. At this price range, SAIL is more expensive than its peers — Tata Steel and JSW Steel, both of which are in the range of 7-8 times. The higher pricing is partially justified by the company's stronger financial position vis-à-vis its competitors.
The expected future growth of the company is more pertinent. Production is likely to go up by 15-20% per annum in the next couple of years. Steel prices are expected to remain stable for now.
In that case, margins are also likely to improve as the company grows. Investors seeking steady returns can look at this stock, which has given 86% returns in the past one year, compared to 38% returns given by the Sensex over the same period.
Calcutta, May 22: Tata Steel is on track to commence operations at its greenfield plant in Jharkhand by 2011, though the state government is yet to come out with a rehabilitation policy for the displaced.
The company has already signed the MoU with the state for the 12mt project which is likely to be in Tontoposhi.
Tata Steel is also expanding the capacity of the Jamshedpur plant in the state to 10mt from 5mt.
If the company gets the land by 2009, then the greenfield plant will go on stream by 2011, Partha Sengupta, principal executive officer of the Jharkhand project, said.
The company has identified 10,000 acres for the project but is unwilling to proceed with the acquisition in the absence of the rehabilitation policy.
Tata Steel managing director B. Muthuraman said, "We have taken good care of the people for the last 100 years and will continue to do so wherever we put up a new project."
Muthuraman and Sengupta were in the city for the launch of a book by Tata Sons's director R. Gopalakrishnan.
The land for the project will also include the resettlement plots.
The company had earlier announced that it wanted to rehabilitate the displaced even before embarking on its greenfield projects at Kalinga Nagar in Orissa and at Jharkhand.
Against the backdrop of widespread resistance against land acquisition for industry, the Tatas's approach can be seen as an attempt to address the possible disquiet at an early stage.
Under the 'Tata Parivar' scheme, the displaced would be moved to a colony having electricity, water, sewerage and other amenities.
Arrangements will be made for health facilities, education and vocational training.
The rehabilitation plan will also take care of the people who will be marginally and indirectly affected by the project. The displaced will be registered and provided with an identity card.
Independent social audits will maintain transparency of the policy and monitor the well-being of the people.
The Tata Parivar project will also be implemented at Kalinga Nagar.
The objective is participation of the displaced in all phases of the project, right from construction to operations.
However, the plans can be implemented only if the Jharkhand government puts in place the rehabilitation policy.
This is because the policy will provide the norms for the Tatas's welfare schemes
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's suggestion to India Inc on Thursday to look beyond the bottomline may have been the latest salvo in an ongoing government-versus-industry see saw.
And, it seems, industry captains had earlier apprised the prime minister about the government's lackadaisical approach in clearing key projects. This, they claimed, adversely affected the government's reputation.
In a letter — a copy of which is with HT — to the prime minister on April 9, Ratan N Tata, India, Chairman, Investment Commission, has alleged that the government was delaying some key projects for no apparent reason.
He said: "This could hurt the image and reputation of the good work that the government is doing in moving India towards an open and transparent economy. The net result is that the country was being negatively impacted in investment and industrial growth and the opportunity of being globally competitive."
"Sustained rapid economic growth and confidence that the reform process is moving forward, though perhaps not at the pace that you would have wanted, have all been contributing factors to the heightened interest in India," the letter added.
The commission — which also has HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh and former HLL Chairman Ashok Ganguly as its members — in its letter has named some of the mega projects, entailing a total investment of $58 billion (Rs 2,35,000 crore), that have not taken off due to delays in land and resource allocation.
These include Korean steel major Posco's $10 billion project in Orissa, Mittal Steel's $18 billion project in Orissa and Jharkhand, Tata Steel's $45 billion projects in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Reliance Energy's $4 billion in Orissa and Tata Power's $4 billion projects in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.
These projects have not taken off ostensibly due to delay in land and resource allocation (raw materials), the letter pointed out. The commission has sought a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the issues and workout possible solutions.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has already sought replies from seven administrative departments — steel, power, coal, petroleum, disinvestments, IT and the financial sector — on the matter first on April 20 and then sent a reminder on May 1
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May 15-21, 07
Jharkhand Grievance: Complaints caught in web
Jamshedpur, May 20: You have a complaint, but who's listening?
The Jharkhand government set up an online grievance cell ( www.jharkhand.gov.in) a couple of years ago, promising to redress problems within a week of their registration and display the status on the worldwide web. But only to remain on paper.
About 250 grievances have been posted, with complaints like against former chief secretary P.P. Sharma to request for postal address of departments. Not one problem has been redressed yet.
Some interesting grievances that attract attention of anyone browsing the official website are for example: grievance number 110 addressed to the Raj Bhavan by Lt. Col. B.P. Singh (retd.) on June 4, 2006.
"Request early action on my grievance no. 102, 100. This is regarding grabbing of my four-acre land in Brambey by B.N. Sharma, father of former chief secretary P.P. Sharma, now director-general of the Administrative Training Institute." Singh first registered the complaint on May 26, 2006. Despite three reminders, its status remains the same. The website shows "no reply".
Another grievance posted by one Binay Kumar Singh on February 19, 2006, goes thus: "I live in Pandra. Here one Pawan Saw Mill, which is illegally situated on adivasi land, is highly pollutant in nature. In addition to wood, it also takes up work of marble cutting. Due to air and sound pollution, it has become extremely difficult for us to reside in our house. Even during the night it continues to work. I have my retired ageing parents who are suffering from heart disease. It has now become a threat to our health and our right to lead a peaceful life. Recently an oil mill was also opened. This mill is also highly pollutant in nature. How industry department has given permission to open such industries in residential area needs to be examined."
Another grievance posted by one Vinay to agriculture and sugarcane development department on August 13, 2005 is: "I need your postal address to send agricultural development plan for rural areas." None of the complaints have been replied to nor have any action been taken on them.
An officer looking after the upgradation of the website, however, boasts: "We would have easily deleted the comments which are against us. We have not done so and boldly posted them on the Net." He was referring to an anonymous grievance posted on August 15, 2006, to the agriculture and sugarcane development department. It asked: "If you cannot reply to a single grievance, then is it to fool us?"
The ongoing controversy over the alleged misrepresentation by Lanco-Globeleq Singapore during the bidding process for 4,000 mw Sasan ultra mega power project (UMPP) and the subsequent delays by the Centre in the resolution of the issue has dampened the mood of investors. On top of it, the power ministry's admission that it was not possible to complete UMPPs—at least Sasan and Mundra, which has been awarded to Tata Power Company—in the 11th plan as they would spill over to 12th plan has raised doubts over the Centre's will to develop power projects through public private partnership.
UMPP is the brainchild of former power secretary RV Shahi who took the initiative and roped in the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) as the nodal agency for the development of UMPPs. Initially, UMPPs were planned in Madhya Pradesh (Sasan), Gujarat (Mundra), Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh (Krishnapatnam), Maharashtra (Girye) and Chhatisgarh. These six projects with the total capacity addition of 24,000 mw entail an investment of Rs 96,000 crore.
Shahi, who pursued the progress made by PFC on the bidding process for Sasan and Mundra projects, succeeded in awarding them to the successful bidders before the end of December. Subsequently, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Jharkhand came forward with their desire to develop UMPPs and thereafter, PFC launched the necessary groundwork for the same. Shahi went on to argue that the development of UMPP with 800 mw unit, to be used for the first time in India, would help achieve the Centre's target of capacity addition of one lakh mw by 2012. Meanwhile, Shahi's extension ended on January 31 when the new power secretary, Anil Razdan, took over.
Even after Ernst & Young, the bid advisor for the UMPPs, said the bid of Lanco-Globeleq Singapore was invalid, there has been no decision from the PFC on the fate of the Sasan project.
The bid validity will expire on June 6 and efforts are now being made by the Sasan Power Ltd, a special purpose vehicle set up by PFC to extend the bid validity upto July 6. Otherwise, PFC would have to rope in fresh invites and it is convinced that bidders would not be able to quote a competitive tariff of Rs 1.19 per unit at which Lanco Globeleq Singapore outmarched other bidders.
As far as other UMPPs are concerned, there have been delays in the submission of financial bid for the Krishnapatnam UMPP by providing flimsy reasons such as non-availability of mega status. As per the revised date, the qualified bidders are expected to submit financial bids on May 25. However, due to recent developments involving Sasan project, investors are not sure whether PFC would stick to the May 25 deadline or postpone it further.
• Overall energy shortage in India is 8.8% . Peaking shortage is 14%
• Generation capacity has to be doubled by 2016 with requisite transmission and distribution systems
• Capacity addition of 78,577 mw is envisaged for the 11th plan
• The power ministry has ruled that aggregate transmission and commercial (AT&C) losses above 15%
• States said additional capacity of 25,817 mw could be added
• Power ministry has avoided inclusion of hydro projects in the 11th plan due to gestation period of over four years
The first date of submission was March 9 but was postponed to April 12 and later, further deferred to May 25. This was conveyed to the qualified bidders at the last minute.
The request for qualification (RFQ) for submission of Tilaiya (Jharkhand) UMPP was delayed. The date of submission was March 20 but was postponed to April 10. The decision to postpone the RFQ submission was also conveyed to the bidders after the expiry of the deadline. RFQ from various bidders was submitted on April 10 and it has been more than a month now but the names of the selected bidders are yet to be announced.
The power ministry, which had initially been quite enthusiastic about the implementation of UMPPs, is yet to resolve the difference with the Chhattisgarh government with respect to the allocation of certain power at free cost from the proposed UMPP. In fact, there has not been any substantial development.
Similarly, due to the politisation of the issue, the proposed UMPP at Girye in Maharashtra would not be possible. Though the Maharashtra government, which is striving to meet the ever increasing power demand, is keen for the Girye site, it was unable to convince the locals and various political parties. Due to this, the power ministry and state government are looking at other sites in the coastal Raigad and Ratna-giri districts.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy expressed concerned over the turn of events in the case of Sasan project and observed that apart from non achievement of the targets, it may give bad publicity to the government's move to set up other UMPPs and ultimately affect the goal of electricity for all. The committee noted "Having achieved only 21,180 mw capacity addition during 10th plan and with a target of 78,577 mw during the 11th plan, there is no likelihood of acheiving 1,00,000 mw generation capacity by 2012 as had been envisaged by the government. No effort should be spared to achieve this target. The power situation in the country needs daily monitoring and accountability to ensure progress as envisaged by the government."
Apart from UPMM, Shahi had launched an exercise for the development of merchant power plants and held the maiden meeting with states on January 16. After a series of talks with states, Shahi had indicated that the capacity addition of at least 10,00 mw would be possible through merchant plants in various states in the 11th plan. Ironically, there has not been updates on coal linkages to merchant power plants.
On similar lines of UMPP, expression of interest for two tranmission projects were submitted by various bidders on January 31 and its been more than four months now, the power ministry has yet to notify the standard bid documents which is necessary to float the RFQ and request for proposal (RFP).
Moreover, it has been four months since applications were made by power developers for allocation of coal blocks but there has been no initiative from the power ministry to expedite the process of coal block allocation for power projects.
Ranchi, May 15 (IANS): Over 50 percent of Jharkhand's legislators enjoy vehicles with beacon lights - quite contrary to the spirit of a law that restricts the number of ministers in states to 15 percent of the assembly strength in order to curb official expenditure.
Possessing vehicles fitted with beacon lights usually ensures VIP treatment as these vehicles are virtually accorded first right of passage and seldom stopped for police checks or towed away from no parking zones.
In the 82-member Jharkhand assembly, as many as 44 MLAs have access to beacon light vehicles. What's more, it's not just ministers who enjoy the facility, for even other MLAs of the ruling alliance and those of opposition parties have access to it.
While a law is in place to restrict the size of the council of ministers in various states to 15 percent of assembly strength, it has hardly helped in cutting down expenditure in Jharkhand.
According to the law, only 12 ministers, including the chief minister, are permissible in Jharkhand and logically, they can keep vehicles with beacon lights besides the speaker.
But in Jharkhand, assembly committee chairpersons are also allowed to keep vehicles with beacon lights. And Speaker Aalamgir Aalam has created 31 assembly committees, thus elevating 31 legislators to the post of chairperson.
The chairperson of each committee is entitled to keep one personal secretary, one office with a computer and other facilities - never mind if the state government hardly ever accepts the recommendations of these committees.
Here's an example. Meinheart, a company, was entrusted with the task of preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the drainage and sewerage system of Ranchi.
It was given Rs.210 million for the DPR - something a legislator objected to as financial mismanagement. Soon an assembly committee was constituted that nailed officials and then urban development minister Raghubar Das. But present Urban Development Minister Harinarayan Rai has rejected the committee recommendation.
"If the government does not accept the recommendation of the committee, it lowers the dignity of the assembly," said Sukhdeo Bhagat, a member of the committee.
The chairpersons of boards and corporations are also entitled to beacon lights. There are 32 such boards and corporations in the state.
The irony is while such VIP facilities are increasing along with the cost to the exchequer, the number of families living Below the Poverty Line (BPL) has increased by 100,000 in the last six years after the state's formation.
A simple index can track real deprivation. Caste is so misguiding as policy tool
Is there a better question to ask, as the UPA completes three years, than who really is the aam aadmi? Who are India's poor? How does public policy select the right beneficiaries? 'Weaker sections' is a vague expression. 'Backward classes' is a shade more precise, though we can go around in circles trying to define working class, lower class, proletariat, lumpen-proletariat, lower class, under-class and slave-class. Marxist taxonomy has contributed to further confusion. But it is obvious that class is fundamentally an economic construct.
Note that in 1963, when a 50 per cent cap was imposed by courts in the Balaji case, 50 per cent of India's population was indeed below the poverty line (BPL). NSS (National Sample Survey) data show a BPL figure of 27.5 per cent in 2004-05 according to one method (uniform recall) and 21.8 per cent according to a different method (mixed recall). Today, if we continue to harp on 50 per cent, we fail to recognise India has changed. And we do harp on 50 per cent. 15 per cent for SCs and 7.5 per cent for STs add up to 22.5 per cent. Since courts allow 50 per cent, 27.5 per cent must be other backward classes (OBCs). That's a far better justification of the 27 per cent OBC figure than the 1931 Census, though there is a minor complication because combined SC/ST share in the total population has increased to 24.4 per cent. There is a tendency to assume all categories of people must be poor — SCs/STs, OBCs, women, physically handicapped, ex-servicemen, those born from inter-caste marriages, dependents of army forces personnel killed in action, Muslims (after Sachar Committee).
They must all benefit, not from positive affirmation, but from its Indian counterpart, reservations and quotas. There is a joke floating around on the Net about a rich girl (in KG) who was asked to write an essay about a poor family. This family (the couple and their two children), their gardener, driver, guard and four dogs were all poor. The family hadn't eaten chicken for two days, the Mercedes hadn't been serviced, the AC wasn't working properly, the house hadn't been painted for one year, the last foreign vacation was six months ago and so on. The point should be obvious to anyone not inordinately dumb, unless that person happens to be a politician. By correlating class (which is what one should be after) with caste, a double mistake is committed. First, one assumes everyone in a backward caste is economically backward (the so-called creamy layer issue). Second, one assumes everyone in a forward caste is economically forward, even if that person happens to reside in the rural back-of-beyond of eastern UP. The worst BPL state is Orissa, with a BPL figure
of 46.4 per cent — worse than Bihar. Isn't it incongruous that the backward caste (SCs/STs/OBCs and based on NSS 1999-2000 data) population should be 29 per cent in Orissa and 66 per cent in
To restate, there is no denying deprivation among backward individuals, but this backwardness is an individual characteristic. Any attempt to ascribe backwardness to collective identity (caste or even geography, as is done in identification of 200 backward districts) is incorrect even if it is seemingly simpler. There can be a legitimate debate about whether reservations (education or jobs) are the best mode. But the broader issue is of identifying the poor (poverty not meaning income poverty alone), an exercise also required for subsidy targeting. One needs a BPL census rather than an OBC census. But since that's difficult and also prone to abuse, are there other indicators one can use, spliced into an index? Since some districts (around 100) lack any physical or social infrastructure worth the name, one can also build that collective element into the index. Such indices have been suggested by Purushottam Agrawal (JNU), Yogendra Yadav and Satish Deshpande (CSDS) and Sachar Committee. In addition, there are 13 parameters suggested by the Planning Commission. Whichever technique is used, if the overall beneficiary figure (including for reservations) is more than 20 per cent, we are going wrong. And we will also go wrong if the bulk of beneficiaries aren't in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Bihar, UP, Orissa, MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, not Tamil Nadu and Andhra.
However, an index is often too complicated. UNDP's human development index (HDI) is a case in point, based on per capita income, education and health indicators alone. Its virtue is simplicity. Other indicators could have been included (and there was a debate when HDI first surfaced in 1990), but it transpires these three capture all we want. The National Family Health Survey found (1998-99) 47 per cent of children (under 3) are under-weight. A Nutrition Foundation of India study (2002) found 29 per cent of Delhi's children (4-18 years) in a private school are over-weight. How many poor individuals are obese or over-weight? If we based reservation criteria on per capita income, BMI (body mass index) and mother's literacy, we would probably do a far better job at identifying those who need reservations. Twenty other indicators can be added, but that loses the virtue of simplicity. As HDI (which is also an indicator of deprivation) showed, because of correlations, a few simple indicators often suffice. In any event, BMI is far superior to caste. Caste may lead to roads being named after specific individuals, but as a public policy tool, it is a road that leads nowhere. Remember the song 'Road to Nowhere'? That has a line, "But they'll make a fool of you." That is what politics has always been.
Ranchi, May 17: Little known till the other day, Ghatkuri mines could bail the Jharkhand government out of the stalemate over providing mining lease to investors and bring the industrialisation process back on track.
Situated about 16 km north of Chiriya mines in mineral rich West Singhbhum district, the state geology department explored the virgin mine for last six months. And the findings were inspiring. The Fe (iron ore) content of the mineral in the mines is 62 per cent, just one per cent less than that in Chiriya mines. Its iron reserves are more than 600 million tonnes — a quantity that companies like Arcelor-Mittal had been looking for its proposed steel plant.
The reserves could be higher than our initial findings, said geologist Arun Kumar, associated with the exploration. The geology department has sought the forest department's permission to carry out drilling work — an exercise that would enable it to ascertain the exact quantity of iron ore reserves in the mines.
Divided into four blocks —Ruam, Lutuburu, Pansiburu and Rajabera — the Ghatkuri mine is located at Ghatkuri reserve forest. Sprawling over about 60 sq km, its mineral deposit is spread over 32 sq km.
Little was known about Ghatkuri till last year when the state government erroneously recommended mining leases to few private companies there unaware that the Union government had reserved that area for PSUs way back in '60s. Before the Centre could act, the state government hurriedly withdrew the recommendations.
The private firms moved the Jharkhand High Court against the government's decision thereafter, but the court gave its verdict favouring the state government.
The government initiated a move to find out the quantity and quality of iron ore reserves of Ghatkuri mine at this juncture. The mines department is already enthused by the findings at Ghatkuri, as they have given a feedback.
Although the government cannot give leases directly to investors at Ghatkuri, it can allot mining lease to Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation (JSMDC) — a PSU of the state government. JSMDC and private investors can enter into joint ventures for mining at Ghatkuri.
The West Bengal Police have picked up one Mohammed Shahid, a mobile phone shop owner from Jamtara district in Jharkhand for allegedly selling the Hutch SIM card, which was recovered from a mobile phone connected to one of the unexploded bombs in the mosque premises in Hyderabad on Friday.
Jharkhand Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch) Gaurishankar Rath, however, said Shahid was not arrested, as he was "apparently cooperating with the investigators."
Shahid, a resident of Mihijam locality of Jamtara district, runs a mobile phone shop at Rupnarayanpur locality under Chittaranjan Township of the adjoining Bardhaman district in West Bengal.
Shahid has confirmed having sold the SIM card to one Babulal Yadav in June 2006. This is one of the two SIM cards that the police recovered from mobile phones connected to an unexploded bomb. Police are, however, convinced that the name Babulal Yadav is a fictitious one.
"Although, the West Bengal Police have not shared details with us, we have been told that he would be released," Rath told Hindustan Times on Monday.
"Shahid has been taken to Kolkata where the sleuths from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are interrogating him. He would be released soon," Jamtara DSP Rajaram Prasad said.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of West Bengal is assisting a police team from Hyderabad to probe Friday's blast at the Mecca Masjid.
Incidentally, both Jharkhand and Bihar have no coverage for Hutch SIM cards, and Shahid must have kept it with him for customers from West Bengal .
"The buyer had submitted photocopies of a driving license issued in Babulal Yadav's name as identity proof to procure the SIM card. We are in the process of varifying the document," said a police officer in Jamtara.
"Shahid initially said he does not recall the details about the person whom he sold the SIM card. However, he has identified the photograph of the buyer. The police have also seized his shop's sale-register that has the photograph of the SIM card buyer," the officer said.
11 worshippers were killed and over 50 were injured on Friday when a powerful blast ripped through a heavy congregation at the historic Mecca Masjid near Charminar, the 400-year-old symbol of Hyderabad.
Information from the slightly damaged but still verifiable SIM card, recovered from the mobile phone used as the detonating device has led the police reach Mohammad Shahid at Mihijam locality in Jamtara district of Jharkhand on Sunday.
According to police, a very sophisticated technology was used to detonate the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) filled with a mixture of RDX and TNT in Hyderabad. "A phone call from anywhere in the world to the mobile attached to the IED is enough to trigger the blast," said an officer.
Police sources said they hope to make some more progress by tracing the calls made or received from the mobile phone that used the SIM card.
Ranchi, May 19 - For generations, a village in Jharkhand has produced people who are hard of hearing. But the authorities have hardly lent an ear to their plight.
The problem has mysteriously persisted for decades in the Muslim-dominated Jhumarvad village of Deogarh district, about 350 km from here.
Shamshool Mia, a 62-year-old villager, said: 'I am hard of hearing since birth. I consulted local doctors but their treatment failed to cure me. I will have to suffer it till I die.'
Shakeel Ahmad, another resident, said: 'I have three sons and two of them are hard of hearing. We are unable to understand why the people of this village face a hearing problem.'
'Even treatment makes no impact on us,' he said. Ahmad pointed out that there was hardly a house in the village without at least one hearing impaired.
The problem has refused to go away.
'My grandfather had a similar problem too. While my father was spared, I and my daughter have the same ailment,' said Aabid Ansari, another resident of the village.
In the village's primary school, there are 110 students, of whom 40 face the same problem.
'It is indeed a difficult task to ensure that each student hears me properly. I have to speak loudly in the classroom,' said a teacher.
Doctors are somewhat baffled.
Manish Kumar, an ENT specialist, said: 'The disease might have resulted from some food habit or absence of the hearing vein. It can also be a reaction to medicines or injury in the ear. But the exact reason can be known only after investigating the villagers and studying their medical history.'
When Jharkhand Health Minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi's attention was drawn towards the problem, he said: 'I came to know about the plight of the villagers just two days ago.
'I have asked the district administration to go to the village with doctors and investigate. If need be, we will send specialised doctors from Ranchi for treatment of the villagers.'
PATNA: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on health and family welfare has expressed deep concern over non-utilisation of funds meant for elimination of leprosy in several states, including Bihar and Jharkhand. The funds were meant for training and other related activities.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee, in its 22nd report on health and family welfare tabled in both the Houses of Parliament in the current session, said that several states, including Bihar and Jharkhand, had huge unspent balances with them till March 2007. Sadly, Bihar tops the list of such states.
The committee noted that several states, including Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, which are yet to achieve the goal of elimination of leprosy, figure in the list. The committee fears that during the current year too, similar amounts would accumulate as unspent balances.
The committee feels that monitoring of the utilisation of funds is not being done properly by the department concerned. Unspent balances cause targeted beneficiaries to remain deprived of the scheme and, therefore, the prevalence rate in these states is coming down very slowly.
It said that it would like to be informed about the number of physically deformed people, who have been rehabilitated under the programme during the last five years.
Elimination of leprosy at national level has, however, been achieved since December 31, 2005 when the prevalence rate came down to 0.95 per 10,000.
A sum of Rs 40 crore was allocated for the year 2007-08 taking into account the fact that new cases will continue to come up for some time and that newly detected cases have to be provided with quality service so that they are treated in time.
This report could not have come at a worst time when WHO and the WHO goodwill ambassador for elimination of leprosy, Yohei Sasakawa, International Leprosy Union, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and other organisations are making an all-out effort to achieve the elimination target in these states at the earliest.
Treatment takes six months to two years with the highly effective multi-drug therapy (a combination of Dapsone, Rifampicin and Clofazimine). Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the disabilities traditionally associated with leprosy.
Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, fear, ignorance and the persistent social stigma prevent many from seeking treatment.
Most people have a natural immunity to leprosy. In fact, only about 5 per cent of the world's population is susceptible to leprosy. Leprosy is not hereditary. It is not transmitted through casual contact.
Leprosy remains a major health problem in 24 countries, with the largest number of affected people residing in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Myanmar , Madagascar and Nepal.
A survey conducted last year has, to date, found over 800 leprosy colonies throughout India, of which states like Jharkhand accounts for 52, Bihar-42, Chattisgarh-34, West Bengal-39, Delhi-22 and UP-55. These colonies, generally isolated from the rest of society, become the permanent home for those who go there.
They are not funded by the government and most of the residents come to live there as society's attitude towards leprosy has driven them away from their families.
NEW DELHI, MAY 18: A 'unique' social audit of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), one of the UPA government's flagship programmes, is underway in Ranchi district of Jharkhand since May 14. Under the Act, a social audit is mandatory.
The 275-member audit team including economist Jean Drèze (Allahabad University), social activist Aruna Roy (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan), both of whom are former members of the National Advisory Council to the UPA, that set the scheme in motion. According to a press release by NREGA Watch, an informal coalition of organisations working for effective implementation of the scheme, the audit, which will cover 15 gram panchayats, will end with a public hearing on May 23 in Ranchi followed by consultations with the state government on May 24. Since corruption has derailed many employment programmes in the past, there is fear that NREGA may follow the same fate.
Hence, the need for social audit, says the release. Recent experience in many states, especially Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, shows that it is possible to eradicate corruption.
However, this requires rigorous enforcement of transparency measures, effective exercise of the right to information, and building a culture of public vigilance. Citing the success story of Andhra Pradesh, the release said because of social audits the state government had started recovering embezzled funds (Rs 5 lakh in 26 gram panchayats in 12 districts in the last month alone). Another areas prone to corruption is fudging of "muster rolls". Last year's audit found that 85% of muster rolls in one district were fake.
Helipad plan at CM home - State to have two chopper harbours
Ranchi, May 20: The Jharkhand government does not have a helicopter after its hired Agusta crash-landed in Dumka last April, but the state would soon have two helipads at its disposal.
While one standard-sized helipad will be ready at the chief minister's house by the end of August, another helipad of the same size would be constructed at Khunti, about 50 km from Ranchi.
The helipad at the chief minister's residence, said officials, would save time and money and is also gives a safer alternative to Koda.
"Every time the chief minister flies, about 10 vehicles are on his cavalcade to or from the airport, about 15 km from Koda's Kanke Road residence. But with a helipad on the doorsteps, the fuel money of the vehicles would be saved. It will also save time and avoid inconvenience to the people," he added.
Koda is not the only person in the government set to get a facelift on the residence. A Rs 42-lakh, double-storeyed building would be constructed beside the Doranda-based government residence of building construction minister Ainosh Ekka.
Tenders have been floated for the three-bedroom building, with plans to finish it within five months.
Ekka wants to shift to the new house as his present accommodation is about 80 years old and often needs repair. The building construction minister has spent less than Rs 10 lakh on his official accommodation, unlike many ministers and bureaucrats who have spent over Rs 50 lakh, said an official.
The helipad, however, would be a novelty as Jharkhand would probably be one of the few states with such a facility on the chief minister's house, an official said.
The plan to set up a helipad was mooted during Arjun Munda's tenure as chief minister but government procedures delayed it, the government official added.
But to make optimum use of the helipad the government would first have to purchase a helicopter.
It had hired an Agusta from Indore-based OSS Aviation but chopper had crash-landed in Dumka on April 28. The government was reluctant to hire choppers and was looking to buy Dhruv choppers from HAL, said sources.
In 2003, Jharkhand government had given an advance of Rs 15 crore to HAL for two Dhruvs but was hesitant after India's first indigenously built advance light helicopters crash-landed repeatedly. However, now it has decided to buy one and is waiting for the finance department's nod to release the remaining payment.
Protests intensify against Reliance Fresh stores in Jharkhand
Protests against Reliance Fresh outlets are intensifying in Jharkhand as vegetable vendors on Thursday took out rallies in the state, accusing the firm of undercutting and pushing them out of the market.
The protesters were shouting slogans against the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries and demanding closure of the stores in the state.
"If the Reliance does not wind up its shops then we will be left with no other option but to go for violent protests that happened in Ranchi," said Vinod Baitha, a member of Vegetable Sellers Association (VSA) of Dhanbad district.
Echoing his sentiment Kunti Mahto, another vegetable vendor, said: "The state government is helping Reliance and acting against the poor who earn daily livelihood by selling vegetables. If Reliance is not stopped from selling vegetables then we will starve to death."
Vegetable vendors also staged sit-ins in front of the deputy commissioner's office in capital Ranchi and demanded closure of the Reliance Fresh outlets and release of the six arrested vegetable vendors.
On Saturday, vegetable vendors had attacked three Reliance Fresh outlets in Ranchi and damaged property worth Rs 5 million. Police baton-charged the protesters in which about two dozen vendors were injured.
Police arrested 17 people in Saturday's attack and two cops were suspended for dereliction of duty. The Special Task Force of Jharkhand Armed Police has been deployed at Reliance Fresh stores.
The Centre has rolled out a red carpet to IPS officers willing to serve in Jharkhand. The invitation, however, has failed to evince any response across the country from the elite men in the Khaki.
Since 2005, the Centre has been sending directions to all states governments, seeking them to depute "bright and willing IPS officers to Jharkhand." The Centre has been issuing such directions after Jharkhand made a series of representations to it, highlighting that the state was woefully short of IPS officers.
"The latest such direction was issued on April 15, 2007," Home Secretary Sudhir Triptahi told HT. " The State Government is still waiting for a favourable response to this effect," said a senior IPS officer.
Jharkhand is faced with an unprecedented shortage of IPS officers. It is left with only 70 IPS officers (excluding those on the Central deputation) to man the 110 cadre posts in Jharkhand police.
Not surprisingly, more than a dozen districts are being manned currently by State police service officers, who are yet to be promoted to the IPS ranks, while about 25 per cent senior IPS posts - officers who play a vital role in police administration investigations - are lying vacant.
The out-of- the box solution mooted by the Centre, according to a section of IPS officer, has apparently failed to yield desired effects because the Centre's letter mentions that the "IPS officers are required in Jharkhand to fight the Naxalites."
"This is in fact a de-motivator. Besides, the officers are unwilling to stay in Jharkhand on deputation due to operational difficulties and a lack of incentives," a senior IPS officer told HT.
Officers, however, also blame the governments, the centre and the State, besides the Union Public Service Commission for having no long-term perspective. The shortage affects efficiency in multiple ways, they said.
Worse still, a number of IPS officers of Jharkhand cadre have shown inclination for central deputation. "It is not that the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence. On the contrary the service conditions, privileges and perks in Jharkhand are far better than what the government of India offers," said a senior IPS officer.
"In Delhi, if you are on deputation below Joint Secretary level, you have to travel by public transport. In Jharkhand, the same officer would get a pool car which would be at his disposal all the time," said a senior IAS officer.
But, the State Government's inclination to post promoted IPS officers at crucial posts while leaving several regular IPS officers shunted to look after insignificant departments has also been a huge de-motivator, said an officer.
No summer vacation for Jharkhand schools this year
Ranchi: School teachers in Jharkhand have decided to protest a proposed move by the state government to keep schools open during the summer and boycott the classes.
According to a directive of the state's Human Resources Development (HRD) department, all schools in the state would continue during summer and the classes, to be called summer camps, would be held during the morning hours between 7 A.M. and 10 A.M.
The summer camps will be held for a few weeks in all the 35,000 primary, middle and high schools in the state.
The directive, which was issued last week, has asked 67,000 teachers not to leave station during this period.
The teachers have announced to boycott the classes and also demanded that vacation is granted to both students and them.
"How the HRD can issue such a directive? We will oppose the directive and press that the vacation are given following the previous trend," said Sanjay Trivedi, member of Jharkhand Primary Teachers' Association, here Monday.
Other teacher organisations have also decided to oppose the HRD directive.
"If the department wants to organise summer camps then it should offer incentive for the teachers. And the teachers' leave should be made optional on whether they want to enjoy vacation or want to take incentive," Shiva Kumar, another teacher, said on Tuesday.
Ranchi, May 18 -: The Jharkhand government will soon open a tribal university in the state to promote tribal languages.
Jharkhand Human Resources Development - minister Bandhu Tirkey said,' The ministry has prepared the proposal and draft for opening up of the tribal university in the state. The draft will be placed soon in cabinet meeting to get the approval'.
'After the state cabinet clears the proposal it will be sent to central government for final approval. There should be one tribal university in the state to promote the tribal languages of the state,' said Tirkey.
The minister pointed out that a tribal university has been opened in Madhaya Pradesh and the Jharkhand government had sought the draft of that university.
Tribal inhabitants constitute 27 per cent of the total 27 million population of Jharkhand. There are 9 tribal languages and dialects of the state. They are Santhali, Oraon, Kharia, Ho, Mundari, Kurukh, Panchapargania, Nagpuri and Kurmali.
The state government has already issued a directive to its employees to learn one of the languages within 18 months. It has also decided to introduce tribal languages in the primary schools from the next academic year.
Tribal scholars are happy with the state government's move to promote tribal languages. 'It is indeed a matter of pride that the state government is planning to promote tribal languages which has been neglected for centuries. If tribal languages will not be promoted then it will become extinct,' said Dukha Oraon, a schoolteacher.
May 18: Farmers in Jharkhand capital Ranchi today welcomed the entry of big industrial houses in retail food chains, saying they would no longer be at the mercy of middlemen.
Vegetable farmers in Ranchi, which witnessed violent protests against opening of food chains by Reliance Industries Ltd. last week, said they have a better deal with the corporate chains.
"We were fed-up with the middlemen. Earlier, we had to take our vegetables to the middlemen who used to pay us a very low cost. But, we were compelled to sell to them in absence of an alternative, they had monopolized the business. Now, we have an option with Reliance who are paying us better prices," said Deleshwar Sahu, a farmer.
Last week, street vendors attacked three stores owned by Reliance Industries in Ranchi, injuring over a dozen people.
It was one of the most serious cases of unrest linked to the entry of large, glitzy retail chains into the country's fragmented 200 billion dollars food and grocery sector, which small shop owners see as a threat to their business.
The street vendors were agitated because Reliance outlets are selling vegetables at prices, much lower than the prevailing market price, driving away their customers.
"We have benefited a lot from the entry of big retail chains. Firstly, we save our time. Earlier we had to reach the market by nine at any cost and if we got delayed, the middlemen used to pay us much lower cost for the same vegetables. But since Reliance has entered the market, there is no time limit. We deliver vegetables according to our convenience," said Laldeo, another vegetable farmer.
Reliance Retail Ltd., a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, is investing 5.6 billion dollars in hundreds of stores throughout the country.
Reliance has opened two stores in the city, where farmers are able to sell their produce directly.
Since it launched its retail operations last year, Reliance has more than 90 fresh vegetable and food stores. It expects to start opening hyper-markets in the next few months.
Other big national firms as well as the foreign players like Britain's Tesco and Wal-Mart are planning to enter the fast growing retail food sector.
Learn a tribal language within 18 months and clear a written test as well as an oral examination; or forego salary, increments and possibly promotion.
The state government's decision to revive and implement this existing provision for its employees, both gazette and non-gazette, has been hailed across the board. Knowledge of one tribal language will help transform the administration, they all felt.
In Tamil Nadu, no IAS officer is posted as a district magistrate unless he or she is fluent in Tamil. Similarly, Hindi-speaking officers of All India Services posted in Bengal are required to learn Bengali.
The situation in Jharkhand is more complicated with at least five regional languages or dialects being spoken in different areas.
Latehar superintendent of police Ravikant Dhan is a Mundari-speaking tribal but is posted in an Oraon belt. Conceding his difficulty in communicating in Kurukh, the superintendent says he will find it difficult to clear the test in Mundari too without preparation.
In Singhbhum and Santhal Pargana, knowledge of Ho and Santhali is essential to communicate. But large number of teachers, engineers, government employees and doctors are not conversant with the languages.
A Santhal inspector posted at Bundu says he finds it easier to follow Mundari and Ho spoken in the area. But it is difficult for someone with no knowledge of a tribal language.
The fresh crop of IAS and IPS officers in the state are conversant with at least one tribal language. Deoghar SP Manoj Kaushik passed his test in Mundari and can converse with people in the Mundari-speaking areas. But in Santhal Pargana, Santhali, he admits, would have been more useful.
Ignorance of the local language hampers communication between magistrates and litigants, between police and the people and in government offices. The belated decision will go a long way to improve governance in the state, agree the babus.
A JAP commander, who does not know any local language, says that in many parts of the state, people do not respond to Hindi.
While Ranchi University is likely to provide resource persons and arrange for special classes, the Administrative Training Institute (ATI) and the Tribal Welfare Research Institute here are also getting ready to facilitate classes for government employees.
A section of the government feels that given the large number of employees, there is an urgent need for private coaching institutes to come up. Also, it would help if learning a tribal language is made mandatory in schools also for at least four to five years.
Joint secretary of the department of personnel P.C. Verma says that the state government has merely revived an old Bihar government order dating back to 1953. But while the rule was confined to only gazetted officers, Jharkhand government has now made it mandatory for non-gazetted employees as well.
The board of revenue, he informed, will be holding the examination and the interview. "The idea is not to turn them into scholars but to ensure that everyone has a working knowledge of at least one tribal language," he says. This will also reduce the dependence of employees on interpreters and middlemen.
While hailing the decision, a bureaucrat hoped that the government, too, will keep in mind the linguistic proficiency and preference of employees before posting and transferring them.
"An employee who has learnt Santhali should not be posted, for example, to Gumla, where people predominantly speak Kurukh," he adds.
The Jharkhand rehabilitation and resettlement policy, expected any day now, is likely to include a proposal to offer equity to the displaced villagers as an option for compensating them for the loss of land.
According to the draft policy, the displaced villagers would either have to be given one job per family or a lumpsum, half of which could be in the form of equity in the projects.
The policy is also likely to make the approval of gram sabhas a must for identifying land for the projects.
"The collector will determine the market rate and the compensation advisory committee will consider the collector's recommendation," the draft policy says. A rehabilitation advisory committee would suggest relief packages for the displaced.
The policy will make various MoUs between the state government and industries a reality. Many companies, sources said, could not acquire land due to the absence of such a policy.
Jharkhand government sources indicated that many projects—Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power, Hindalco—were at the land acquisition stage.
However, this is not the first time a state government is considering grant of equity in projects as compensation. Orissa's rehabilitation policy has a provision for issuance of convertible preference shares to the displaced.
The value of the shares can be up to 50 per cent of the one- time cash assistance. The West Bengal government is also considering the option for its future projects.
However, industry executives say the displaced are unlikely to opt for equity as they will not know what to do the shares.
Ensure peace, Jharkhand told after Reliance Fresh protests (LEAD)
Ranchi, May 13 (IANS) The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Sunday asked the law and order agencies in Jharkhand to ensure peace and calm a day after the protests by vegetable vendors over the opening of Reliance Fresh shops here turned violent.
Thirteen people were arrested for violence Saturday and two policemen suspended for dereliction of duty following the attack on three shops of Reliance Fresh - a project promoted by Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries.
According to official sources, the PMO contacted officials in Chief Minister Madhu Koda's office to immediately look into the matter and issue necessary directions to ensure peace and calm in the state.
The union home ministry has also contacted Jharkhand police chief J.B. Mahapatra over the violence, for which five reports were lodged in two police stations - three in Lalpur and two in Bariatu, the sources added.
Among the 13 arrested is Uday Shankar Ojha, leader of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), who was reportedly taken into custody on the directions of the chief minister. At least two-dozen protesters were injured in a police baton charge, following which security at the outlets was enhanced, officials said.
According to a Reliance official, the protesting vendors damaged property worth Rs.5 million. One Reliance Fresh shop in Morabadi was badly ransacked and the protesters looted dry fruits and damaged vegetables and other commodities.
The vendors were unhappy with the arrival of Reliance to retail vegetables. 'We have been selling vegetables for generations. Reliance Fresh is a threat to our very survival and causing employment problems,' said Phulmani Devi, a vendor.
'We will starve to death if Reliance is not stopped from selling vegetables.'
This was the second time in a week that vegetable sellers took out processions to protest the opening of Reliance stores.
The group buys the produce directly from farmers at comparatively higher prices and since middlemen are eliminated, it retails it at much lower rates compared with roadside vendors.
Five Maoist rebels have been killed by police and paramilitary forces in Jharkhand's Garwah district, police said on Sunday.
A gunfight took place on Saturday night between the rebels and the forces in a jungle area of Garwah, around 130 km from ranchi. Five guerrillas, including two women rebels, were killed in the gun battle that lasted for over four hours.
"We got a tip off and raided a Maoist hideout, where around 35 rebels were camping. While five were killed, the rest managed to escape," said a police official.
Four self-loading rifles (SLR), one AK-47 and more than 500 cartridges were recovered from the guerrillas, the official said.
Maoist rebels are active in 16 of Jharkhand's 22 districts. Nearly 600 people, including 290 security personnel, have lost their lives in Maoist violence in the last six years.
Ranchi, May 13: Vandalism by local vegetable vendors at four newly-opened Reliance Fresh outlets yesterday has not deterred the company's plans for Jharkhand.
"So far, customers are only buying fruits and vegetables. They would soon get the opportunity to pick up clothes and dress material from our Reliance Digital and Reliance Hyper Market — the new entrants in the state capital," announced top officials over phone from Mumbai.
"Our plan is to open one outlet for every 3,000 household in the country and Ranchi will be a part of it," they added. Giving details about its expansion, the Reliance officials said a new outlet would be coming up at Bahu Bazaar for non-vegetarian items.
Reliance Fresh today carried out its business as usual in three of its four outlets in the city —SPG Mart in Bahu Bazaar, Laxmi Narayan Market at Tharpakhna and Rathore Tower on Circular Road.
The Morabadi outlet could not function because the vendors yesterday had damaged it badly during their protest against venture of big companies in the vegetable and fruit retailing.
Company officials at this outlet were seen busy assessing the damage with insurance surveyors throughout the day.
The police, who had failed to act promptly yesterday, too, were seen on vigil. Despite being Sunday and courts being closed, the city police produced the miscreants before the chief judicial magistrate at his residence and later forwarded them to Birsa Munda Central Jail.
Those arrested included a peace committee member and JVM leader Uday Shanker Ojha, who had led the vendors in the protest. Ojha said supporting the vendors was his personal decision and the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha had nothing to do with it. "I was invited to lead the vendors in my personal capacity," he added.
Meanwhile, in response to a bandh called in the city today, few vendors were seen at Lalpur, Bahu Bazaar, Kutchery and Naga Baba Khatal market. Daily Market remained normal.
Senior police superintendent M.S. Bhatia said more arrests are possible.
Chhatarpur MLA and JD(U) leader Radha Krishna Kishore visited the Reliance Fresh outlet on Circular Road and H.B. Road to express his solidarity with the company and build a public opinion against the Koda government.
"What can we expect from the government, which failed to provide security to vegetable outlets in the city," he said, demanding proper compensation for the businessmen who were targeted during Reliance Fresh outlet attacks. Kishore said his party leader George Fernandes would be coming tomorrow to express his solidarity with the company and highlight the administrative failure of the state government. Jharkhand Pradesh Mahila Congress president Prat-ibha Pandey also visited the outlets.
With plasmodium falciparum malarial cases registering a definite rise in Jharkhand, the State's health authorities are finding it hard to cap the steadily increasing spread of malaria through most of the State's 22 districts.
Not too long ago, the Government of India had sounded an alarm after seven Jharkhand districts were found in its list of 100 'highly endemic' districts countrywide.
The State Health department, hampered by resource and staff crunch, is up against a Herculean task trying to cap the spread of the dreaded epidemic.
What complicates the issue further is the fact of detection of an inordinately large number of drug resistance cases being reported from the endemic zones as also by the fact the disease is being detected the whole year through. Normally, malarial instances are at their 'highest' during the post-monsoon period.
Despite the Centre pumping in several crore rupees every year there seems to be no check on the vectors. Over 75 per cent of the cases in the highly endemic zones are said to be of the 'Plasmodium Falciparum' strain, which, as is known, often leads to the worst kind of cerebral malaria.
Nearly 100 per cent of the malaria cases in Simdega have been found to be of the Falciparum variety while 90.24 per cent cases in Jamtara too are from the same dreaded category. Falciparum cases were recorded to over 75 per cent of the total cases in Gumla, West Singhbhum and East Singbhum.
Moreover, certain primary health centers in the affected districts have reported resistance to drugs leading to a second line of treatment in these areas.
State Malaria Officer In-charge Dr P. Baskey told HT that, "1.91 lakh people were reported positive in the State during the last year from the 20.56 lakh blood smears examined. The total slides collected during the year were 20.74 lakh".
Dr Baskey pointed out that there had been only four confirmed deaths, while some 18 patients were put under the 'suspect' category. However, the number of deaths, as per unofficial figures, is said to be fairly high.
The Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Apollo Hospital, Seva Sadan and Gurunanak Hospital officials admitted to a rise in malaria cases.
What makes the scenario worse is that the State lacks the proper infrastructure and manpower to tackle the disease. This, despite the Centre for Tropical Medicine & Parasitoloy (CENTROMAP), Kolkata Advisor Dr A. Nandy warning the State that recent findings had indicated biological modifications in the plasmodium vivax parasite making it life threatening on the pattern of the falciparum cases.
State Malaria Officer Dr AK Upadhyay said proper measures had been initiated. "There are sufficient stocks of drugs supplied by the Centre," he said.
- IIPA in charge of training talks about development plan
In an attempt to provide trained manpower for the management of PSUs, the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, set up the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) in 1958.
IIPA, now headed by Vice-president of India Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, provides training to IAS, IPS and top government officials. The institute is all set for its first regional office in Ranchi. Vice-president and in-charge of training at IIPA, N.P. Singh talks to Rudra Biswas on the institute's future plan for Jharkhand.
IIPA has regional offices in every state. Are you planning to set up one in Ranchi?
We have plans to set up a regional office in Ranchi. State industries secretary Santosh Kumar Satpathy as returning officer has been given the responsibility to set up our office in Ranchi at the earliest.
What plans do you have for Jharkhand?
IIPA has already proposed to conduct a weeklong intensive training programme for its cabinet ministers. The training programme would cover administration, poverty, development plans and disaster management. A second course has been outlined for all IAS officials in the state.
Why has IIPA chosen to train Jharkhand ministers in the first instance?
Over the past four years, the state government has signed more than four dozen MoUs with national and international entrepreneurs. However, procedural problems continue to stand in the way of implementation. Our initiatives would help the state transform all its MoUs into reality.
What other plans does IIPA have for the state?
IIPA, at the national level, is promoting the concept of a Special Agriculture Zone for the states, which needs to take precedence over Special Economic Zones. We intend to pass on IIPA's studies on special agriculture zones to Jharkhand so that the state can harness its farm potentials.
You have recently headed an IIPA delegation to China. Haw can your China experience help Jharkhand?
IIPA intends to share its China experience with the state government. IIPA's study on an east China province called Guizhou would be most relevant to the state. This eastern China province resembles Jharkhand to some extent in terms of mineral deposits, industrial base and its dependence on agriculture. An opening up policy, freedom of investment, reforms, development and cultivation of talents pursued by the Chinese government has worked wonders for Guizhou. The state government can imitate the similar experience to suit its requirements.
Ranchi, May 13: With the examination season drawing to an end, students are bracing for admission into colleges. And a paradigm shift has been witnessed over the past few years in the academic preferences of Jharkhand students.
Keeping in mind the changed scenario, Association of Professional Academic Institutes, Calcutta, along with Educatif Heritage, Ranchi, has organised a two-day career fair for the first time at Capitol Hill today.
"The fair aims to bring the best colleges of eastern India on one platform for easy choice of the students," said S.S. Singh, chairman, Educatif Heritage.
Bypassing old favourites Maharashtra and Karnataka, eastern India has once again emerged as a much sought-after destination for Jharkhand students.
Priyanka Raj of DAV Jahanabad, who aspires to pursue BBA, said: "I would prefer an institute in Jharkhand or Bengal since the cost of living is affordable."
Colleges in the south and west used to be the traditional preference of students from Jharkhand, but performance in joint entrance examinations has ceased to be the yardstick for admission there. Now, only candidates capable of paying huge donations are taken in, acting as a turn-off for students from other states.
Abhishek Kumar of Hatia, said: "Though I qualified in the Maharashtra joint entrance examinations, I was asked to pay a hefty amount as donation for admission. This generally does not happen in colleges in Orissa and Bengal."
"The number of companies coming for campus placement to colleges of Bengal and Orissa, too, is greater as compared to those coming to institutes in other states," said another student.
"This encourages me to select colleges belonging to this part of the country," she added. "If we can get quality education in or around our hometown, why do we need to go to other states?" said Payal Mazumdar.
KALAMATI: They are being hailed as 'pied pipers' of Deogarh, their subjects being monkeys. If locals are to be believed, the simians simply dread their presence.
They not only exercise absolute control over the animal species but also relish their meat. They have the extraordinary capability to trap monkeys by nets and have a feast.
Residing in hutments a stone's throw away from the busy Howrah-Mumbai National Highway 6, they behave and look savage, as if cut off from the civilised world.
Neither do they understand Oriya nor Hindi and communicate in language that is incomprehensible to the locals. They are now being identified with Munda tribals of Jharkhand.
Forest dwellers by nature, it has been barely a decade that they have settled here after moving around in dense forests of Jharkhand and Bonai in Sundargarh.
Since then, their small hamlet comprising 42 families has been referred to as 'Mankadia Sahi' in acknowledgement of the special relation they share with monkeys.
This apart, 10 families also stay in Shantinagar within Deogarh block. When Deogarh was hit by monkey menace and even forest officials failed to tame them, these Mankadias were called in.
Their words of 'Dalo, Dalo, Halo, Halo…' still reverberate in the ears of the residents who recall the event with gusto. Latika Tripathy recalled how monkeys had invaded the town destroying crop, injuring people, breaking virtually everything they could lay their hands on.
It was such tough a time that people refused to come out of their homes in fear of the simians. And the moment the Mankadias landed and shouted the words, monkeys lined up like the rats akin to the 'Pied Piper story' and vanished from the scene.
The community still maintains a primitive lifestyle depending on the jungles for food and sustenance.
They make ropes and nets out of the leaves and bark of Siali plants to use them for trapping monkeys. The members of the tribe wear minimal clothes with children wearing nothing.
The administration, however, has started efforts to integrate them with the mainstream.
Breaking away from the confines of her small town helped realise her Bollywood dreams
Two films in two weeks - now that's what being in business means. And Tanushree Dutta is lapping up every moment of her days now, touring the country to promote her films.
"I have a different look and role in each of my three forthcoming films. From a tomboy in Good Boy Bad Boy to the girl-next-door in Dhol and the negative character in Raqeeb, I have been given the opportunity to try out such diverse roles. I am really thankful to my directors and producers for that," says Tanushree.
The former Miss India also claims that she is now consciously moving away from her ultra-glamourous look and looking for meaningful roles.
"Age is on my side and I feel this is the right time to experiment with different roles. That is why I did not hesitate to accept the negative character I play in Raqeeb.
With age, artistes develop set images which are sometimes difficult to break. So I am trying out a wide variety of roles at the moment," she says.
Tanushree has also decided to abstain from any more intimate scenes in her films. "It's a strict no-no as far as on-screen kissing or lovemaking scenes are concerned.
Featuring the kissing scene in Chocolate, I was very unwilling to do it and even wanted to quit the film because of it. But I was convinced by the director that the scene was integral to the film's plot and so I agreed. And later, it was just chopped off.
So what was the need for me to enact that scene? That incident was my first learning experience in Bollywood. Although Aashiq Banaya Aapne also had a kissing scene, it was necessary to the film's plot, so I don't regret doing it.
But I felt really bad when I was watching the film with my family. I come from a very conservative background, no one in my family is a filmstar and for them to accept those bold scenes was tough. So I have now decided that I will not do any scene which will offend the sensibilities of my family," says Tanushree.
Hailing from the small town of Jamshedpur, Tanushree believes that she has taken a quantum leap in achieving what she has today.
"I did my schooling there, but shifted to Pune for my senior school and college, though I did not finish my college education. In hindsight, moving out of Jharkhand was the best move of my life.
I always had such high expectations from life and people in that protective environment just thought that I was dreaming beyond possible horizons.
But I had a lot of faith in myself and that has helped me a lot," reminisces Tanushree. She also takes the criticism that her acting and personal styling have faced in her stride.
"I am learning, give me time. When I first came here, I did not even know how to put on lipstick properly. But I have progressed and try to improve my way of dressing and make-up all the time.
I have not been blessed with a makeover the way, say, Manish Malhotra did for Karisma Kapur. I know my personal wardrobe has ample scope for improvement, but I have learned a lot more about styles and the latest trends than when I first joined this industry," says Tanushree.
Though she is open to having a personal stylist, Tanushree says no one has approached her yet! She is also confident that she will find her niche in Bollywood without the help of any godfather.
"I will not deny that it is great if you have a godfather in this industry in that it makes the path a little smooth. But there is no sweat if there is no one. Talent and hard work ultimately pat handsome dividends in this line.
And I am confident that I will be able to make it. Initially my parents were not happy with my decision to join films. We had frictions and debates on this issue.
"Very few people from Jharkhand and certainly no one from my family are in Bollywood and my parents had other dreams for me. My dad wanted me to be an MBA and my mom wanted me to be an IAS officer.
But when they saw how hard I tried to excel in Bollywood, how I did not let failures bog me down, they gave in and realised that this is what I am destined to be. Today my parents are my biggest critics and drive me to excel," says the happy daughter.
Apart from Bollywood, Tanushree is open to working in regional films as well, and says that she is willing to give Bengali films a try, if she gets a good script and good banner to promote the film.
"See, I am a director's actor. I am dependent on the director to extract the best performance out of me. And a good banner is a must because a film needs to be promoted. So, I have no qualms about working in regional films.
"But at the moment, I am keeping my fingers crossed that my forthcoming Hindi films do well and people appreciate all the hard work I, and my whole team, have put into the making," says Tanushree, as she rushes off to catch a flight to another city to promote her films.
Ranchi, May 10 : When some Jharkhand cops succeeded in tracing a radio signal-based landmine this week, they considered themselves lucky. For, Maoists in the state are increasingly going high-tech with their landmines, resulting in heavy casualties in the police force.
In Tuesday's incident in Bokaro district, the landmine was recovered when a police party was on long range patrolling. The rebels had fitted an antenna in the landmine so as to blast it by activating a wireless set.
Landmine blasts have claimed the lives of more than 170 security personnel in Jharkhand in the last six years - and the high number of deaths is partly attributed to the different types of landmines used by the rebels on tarred as well as non-tarred roads.
"So far Maoist rebels have used wires to blast landmines, claymore landmines, camera flash landmines, mobile landmines and radio signal landmines," a senior police involved in anti-Maoist operations told IANS.
"Maoist rebels change the technique of landmines to ensure a high casualty."
In mobile landmines, for instance, cell phones are fitted in the landmine and an explosion is triggered if a call is made to the phone. In the camera flash landmine, a flash can cause the blast.
Even Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) J.B. Mahapatra admitted that the Maoists were equipped with the latest technology to detonate landmines.
"Maoist rebels use different methods to detonate landmines. The latest is radio signal technology which is detonated with the activation of wireless sets," he said.
In Jharkhand, the guerrillas of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) have planted landmines on both tarred and non-tarred roads. Landmines on tarred roads are usually planted by alluring workers and contractors or threatening them.
Police have stopped long range patrolling during night due to the threat of landmine blasts. Security personnel have also been directed to get down from their vehicle on non-tarred roads.
Police officials involved in operations against Maoists say they do not have the latest technology to detect landmines.
Jharkhand officials irked by tribal language decree
Ranchi, May 10 - The Jharkhand government's move to make knowledge of at least one tribal language mandatory for government officials has triggered anger among the mass of employees.
The promotion, increment and salary of government officials in Jharkhand will henceforth depend on their knowledge of one of four tribal languages - Ho, Mundari, Kurukh and Santhali.
Officials have been directed to learn one of them within 18 months and take a test to prove their proficiency. The results would determine promotions.
In Jharkhand, tribals constitute 27 percent of the state's 27 million population. No tribal language has been given second language status in the state. But books exist in all tribal languages.
A senior officer says there is nothing new in the order.
'The government has just implemented the undivided Bihar government order formulated in 1953. The order had directed gazetted employees posted in the then southern Bihar to learn a tribal language,' said P.C. Hembrom, joint secretary in the personnel department and a tribal.
The language rule will affect all employees.
The officials argued that such orders were strictly implemented in states like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
'In Tamil Nadu, only those IAS - officers who have a knowledge of Tamil are posted in districts. In West Bengal, knowing Bengali is a must,' said another government official.
Government business in Jharkhand is now conducted in Hindi. Officials say the move is aimed at creating better understanding between the officials and tribals so that development work can be expedited.
Most officials are not happy with the directive.
'The move is just a way to appease the tribals. The order is motivated by vote bank politics. The ministers should first learn the tribal language as they are public representatives,' said a furious deputy secretary who is originally from Bihar.
The officials also pointed out that any one tribal language is not spoken all over the state.
'Santhali is spoken and written only in the four districts of Santhal Parganas. Ho, Kurukh and Mundari are spoken at different places. Employees are transferred from one district to another on a regular basis. How will learning one language help?' asked the official.
KOLKATA, MAY 9 : Burnpur Cement Ltd (BCL), a West Bengal-based cement manufacturer, has tied up with ThyssenKrupp Industries India for setting up a million tonne plant at Patratu in Jharkhand with an eye on the 8-9% demand growth.
While the country's installed capacity for manufacturing cement is around 165 million tonne per annum, demand is going up by 16-17m tonne every year.
ThyssenKrupp India is a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp AG of Germany, manufacturing boilers, sugar, cement and other plant machinery.
Ashok Gutgutia, vice-chairman and managing director of BCL, said the plant, to be set up in two phases, will involve a total investment of Rs 500 crore, of which Rs 120 crore will be invested in the first phase expected to be complete by 2008.
Gutgutia said BCL has already entered into an agreement with a consortium of eight banks led by the State Bank of India for term loan. It has also submitted the draft prospectus to the Securities & Exchange Board of India for an initial public offering to raise around Rs 25 crore.
BCL, which already has a 0.3m tonne grinding plant in Asansol, will also set up a clinker plant along with ordinary portland, portland puzzolana and portland slag cement units in Patratu, said Gutgutia.
The Patratu project is aimed at catering the cement-starved eastern, north-eastern and Nepal markets. Setting up a clinker plant in the eastern part would enable supplying quality cement to these markets at a lower cost, as it would save 15% on transportation.
At present, BCL as well as other cement manufacturing plants in eastern India bring clinker from Chhattisgarh that adds up to the cost.
Dumka, May 13: Nearly 100 police personnel, including an inspector and officers-in charge of police stations, were being held hostage by angry villagers in this Jharkhand district and were yet to be freed when reports last came in.
Along with the police personnel, the block development officer and circle officer of Ramghar block under Dumka district have been held captive for over 11 hours today.
The trigger for the hostage drama occurred around 8 am yesterday, when a police team led by Rakesh Mohon Sinha, inspector of police of Jarmundi circle, went to Kuam village to clear a blockade on the Dumka-Ramghar road.
The village is located under Ramghar police station, some 40 km from the district headquarters. The villagers had organised a road blockade since midnight in protest against a step by Ramghar police, which they felt was a blatantly unjustifiable move. Ramghar police had reportedly set free one Sonoti Besra, a 20-year-old woman, from the police station. The villagers accused Sonoti of being involved in the murder of a 24-year-old villager, Lobin Hembrom, on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, the villagers apprehended Sonoti and handed her over to Ramghar police. But the police set her free, without any clear or cogent reason. The villagers claimed that the murderers were close friends of Sonoti and had come to the village to kill Hembrom. The villagers are also holding Soni Murmu, mother of Sonoti, hostage along with the police and administrative officials. Dumka deputy superintendent of police Charu Lakra rushed to the spot this evening.
Similar other allegations have been levelled against the local police earlier as well.
Jarmundi police on Thursday also set free another youth, Raju Kumar Khatic, who had been accused of raping a woman inside Basukinath Temple on Wednesday.
The woman, along with her husband and a sibling, came to the temple from Saraiyahat block for a special ritual. According to the norms of the ritual, the devotee was supposed to stay in the temple complex for a few weeks.
In the dead of the night, when the couple was sleeping in the temple premises, Khatic and two others allegedly sneaked into the temple precincts and raped the woman.
Other devotees present at the temple that night woke up on hearing the victim's screams and nabbed Khatic. The two other youths involved in the incident, however, managed to escape. Khatic was handed over to police personnel on duty at the temple.
Ranchi, May 13: The owner of a commercial vehicle could consider himself extremely fortunate if he can manage to get hold of a motor vehicles' inspector (MVI) to get the mandatory fitness certificate.
With MVIs hopping from one district to another — as more than a district has been assigned to them — there is no check on the fitness of vehicles. Sample this: contrary to the provisions that each district should have at least one MVI, the state has five MVIs at present to furnish fitness certificates to commercial vehicles.
Under the motor vehicles rules, each commercial vehicle should undergo a mandatory fitness test every year to ensure that everything within the vehicle is in order.
Two decades ago, Ranchi had two MVIs as there was a huge demand for such tests. But over the years, though the number of public vehicles has increased, the strength of MVIs have reduced from two to one.
The Jharkhand Bus Owners' Association had shot off two letters to the transport department demanding appointment of more MVIs in the state. But there has been no response from the government.
There are some apprehensive commercial vehicle owners who fear that the scarcity of MVIs is a deliberate move as a lot of money can be collected illegally from vehicles plying without the certificates. And the fitness certificate cannot be got unless one meets the MVI.
The joint transport commissioner, Mathius Burh, said the scarcity of MVIs is posing problems for the smooth functioning. But denied that there are ulterior motives in not filling up the vacant posts of the MVIs. The department, he said, had authorised private parties to carry out fitness tests of commercial vehicles in 11 districts. This helps in providing fitness certificates.
But bus owners' association general secretary Kishore Mantri said: "The fitness verification centres are of little help. Even the certificates issued by the centres have to be countersigned by the MVIs."
Ranchi, May 8 - Police stations are turning into cupid's corners in Jharkhand, with cops solemnising marriages of couples whose matches are not acceptable to their parents or to society.
Take Shankar Munda, a resident of Sikidiri block in Ranchi. His wife deserted him three months after their marriage and eloped with her lover.
Munda recently got married to his wife's younger sister. The police station turned into a wedding pandal where the marriage was solemnised with all rituals.
'We managed everything with the consent of the villagers and family members of the bride,' said Ashok Kumar, an officer at the Sikidari police station. The marriage took place on May Day.
Another much-in-love couple was united by the Namkom police station here. The parents were against the marriage till the cops came to the couple's rescue.
'The marriage was arranged by the police after looking into the legal aspects. If the law permits, then the police step in to facilitate such marriages,' said M.S. Bhatia, the senior superintendent of police, Ranchi.
In recent times, 10 such marriages were organised by the police in Jharkhand.
According to police, before arranging the marriage, they verify the couple's age, job and other things.
'We also try to get the girl's statement recorded in court on whether she had come away with her lover with her own consent or not. If an adult girl runs away and wants to marry against the wishes of the family, then the police play the role of facilitator,' said a police official.
The bamboo here is solid and strong, but the Assam product sells more in Dhanbad, Resham Mukherjee wonders why Bamboo that's found in the forests of Parasnath-Giridih ranges bordering the Dhanbad district is special. It's strong and solid and far more difficult to carve and chisel than the hollow and flexible bamboo which the artists of Assam use.
And its products cheaper, since the price does not add up because of transportation cost and VAT charges. But in Dhanbad it's the costlier Assam product which sells better. Simply because the local market has not been built up. Not just that, a lot of this bamboo is even smuggled out of the state by the bamboo mafia, which exploits the poverty of the local people to get its work done.
It's been almost a decade since the gangs started operating, and continue to stalk the Dhanbad-Giridih borders. According to the divisional forest officer Sanjeev Kumar, over half a dozen cases are registered every year. The gang hand over the contract of bamboo felling to the poor, who are ready to take it on for a paltry sum of Rs 30-50 per day. The trekkers are armed and outnumber the forest guards. Bamboo is tied in bundles of 20-30 and brought down. Treated with fumes, they take off for the mandis (markets)of Kanpur, Varanasi, Rajasthan and Delhi. The Giridih-Parasnath hills and hills of Tundi, Topchanchi and Beriomorh bordering Dhanbad are abodes of a special quality of bamboo, not easily found elsewhere. Earlier, it was auctioned by contractors but that discontinued from 1980. Later, forest officials took over. As production fell, contract business was stopped. And bamboo fellers raised their heads.
The quality of the bamboo apart, the artisans have been innovative in their designs as well. The replica of the Taj Mahal at the department of industries and commerce (DIC) in Dhanbad district is proof of that. Completed in eight days, it costs Rs 2,200. Anywhere else it might have found buyers. Not here. For not many even know it's waiting to be bought. This, in spite of an ambitious government of India funded bamboo development project chalked for Jharkhand, which is worth Rs 1825.16 lakh, for the years 2000-2001 to 2010-2011. It was a project that hoped to generate employment among the poor tribals of the forest areas of Dhanbad and Giridih borders, easy victims of the mafia gang, who hire them to cut the bamboo from the forests for meagre payments. Its good quality has taken it places, with vendors sitting along the Grand Trunk Road, leading to Varanasi, not going without business. DIC officials admit that it has also been drawing a good number of buyers in fairs outside Dhanbad, including Delhi haat and the Udyog mela in the state capital.
But as Mithun Choudhary, an artisan at the DIC's training and resource centre, rues, locally the skill goes unrecognised.
Sujit Mukherjee, owner of the only Assam cane products showroom in Dhanbad, says he has never heard about bamboo products made at the DIC resource centre in Dhanbad. He admitted that the cane products from Assam were costlier, especially after implementation of the value added tax (VAT) of 12.5 per cent.
"We hardly get to save. Already, there is a lot of expenditure on the transport. When the product is placed in the market, the price automatically shoots, and customers are not always ready to pay the hefty amount. If the local products are given to us, we can sell them and give them the returns proportionately. It would be profit both ways," Mukherjee pointed out.
It's a project that could well take off, but as of now, even the general manager of DIC, Samrom Barla, admits: "There are no state sanctioned projects as yet. DIC has hired only three craftsmen who make the products. They sell them from the centre itself or make them on order."
Scheduled Tribe girls have far better enrolment in schools than their SC, OBC and Muslim counterparts.
The first national evaluation of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas in 12 states has revealed that at 31.43%, ST enrolment is ahead of SCs ( 26.36%), OBCs (26.45%), Muslims (4.31%) and below poverty line families (8.75%).
Though Muslim girls have poor enrolment, sources pointed out that a large number of them have been included as OBCs. Further fine-tuning would give the real percentage of Muslim girls' enrolment but there is unlikely to be major change.
The evaluation of KGBV schools — 1,100 out of 1,180 are operational in the country mainly dominated by marginal sections — has also revealed that states in the Hindi heartland like Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh are making innovations to attract girls to schools.
The study, carried out by independent experts for HRD ministry and conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat , Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh also revealed that the scheme has received "high priority and political attention".
KGBVs have now become a sub-component of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. In fact, Andhra Pradesh has 7.4% more girls enrolled than the capacity since the state has introduced classes 9 and 10 with its own resources.
Bihar has shown some good results and the state is showcasing the success of how five physically challenged 'Musahar' girls going to KGBV in Bochacha block, Muzaffarpur, have become role models for other girls.
The evaluation shows it has other achievements too. With the capacity of 5,500 girls, enrolment is 3,972 out of which 1,948 are SCs, 797 OBCs, 170 BPL and 771 minority girls. Interestingly, SC girls outnumber daughters of politically powerful OBCs.
Bihar lays special emphasis on taking girls of single parents and orphans. Another highlight from Bihar is that girls who had never enrolled have also been welcomed in the KGBVs.
Other best practices have come from AP where detailed micro-planning is done to ensure that all girls are enrolled and child-wise data is available at the mandal level. In UP, MP, Jharkhand and Karnataka, household survey data is used for identification of the children.
Arunachal Pradesh is another success story where KGBVs are running as residential primary schools and a move to convert them into middle schools has already started.
The reality of Orissa's iron ore mines, where the promise of prosperity is just empty rhetoric.
Hundreds of hectares of forests have been lost to mining over the years in a situation where encroachments are impossible to monitor. The most common illegality is to continue mining long after the lease has ended.
AS the shadows lengthen on Keonjhar's main street, the tube-lit sign above Hotel Arjun flickers to life, illuminating both the entrance to the hotel and the cigarette seller next to it. A traffic policeman walks up to the crossing right outside the hotel and assumes his position at what is the most significant crossing in town.
Fifteen kilometres down the road, the ground shivers as a queue of trucks, over a kilometre long, shudders to life. Engine after engine revs up as several hundred trucks begin the next stage of their 325-km journey from the iron-rich Keonjhar district in north Orissa to Paradip port on the east coast. This has been the practice ever since the District Magistrate issued orders prohibiting truck movement between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Further up, the highway narrows into the first of many bottlenecks, and branches off, capillary-like, into un-metalled paths that lead into the heart of the district's iron ore mines.
Across the Baitarani river, in Joda, Barbil, Deojhar and Thakurani, the low mountains are illuminated by high-powered halogens, as work continues at a relentless pace in the mines - visible as raw, red gashes on the otherwise thickly forested mountainside.
The source of an estimated 35 per cent of India's total reserves of haematite, Orissa produced more than 46 million tonnes of iron ore in 2004-05, of which three quarters came from Keonjhar. Almost all of it was, and still is, carted away in nearly 30,000 trucks from the 119 mines that dot the district.
The trucks move north from Joda, to the Jharkhand border where they supply ore to Jharkhand's rapidly expanding steel industry, and northwest to Haldia port. But the majority move south through Keonjhar town towards Cuttack and cut through to Paradip port, from where the ore is shipped in containers to one of the few countries that have a bigger appetite for steel than India - China.
Initially seen as the engine of an independent India - the first "swadeshi" steel mill was completed in 1920 by the Tata Iron and Steel Company at Jamshedpur in present-day Jharkhand just across the border with Orissa - it was cast into the shadows by the shining "new economy" of the 1990s.
A five-year rally in international prices has seen the iron and steel sector make a strong return on the business pages of newspapers.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out in his keynote address at the India Steel Summit 2007: "In the last five years, the production and consumption of steel has grown at rates exceeding 9 per cent per annum. The pace of growth has further accelerated in the current year to over 10 per cent."
The recently formulated national steel policy has set the production target for 2020 at 110 million tonnes of steel, and a doubling of the present capacity from around 40 million tonnes to 80 million tonnes by 2012.
A buoyant national economy and a booming construction sector are expected to add to the optimism in the steel sector, and nowhere is this felt more than in the office of Padmanabha Behera, Orissa's Minister of Steel and Mines and Planning and Coordination. "We have signed 45 MoUs [Memoranda of Understanding] till date," he told this correspondent, "and production has already started in 23."
The Minister foresees a resurgent Orissa, propelled forward by his party's mantra of "progress through industrialisation". Behera believes that Orissa's future lies in using its vast mineral wealth to generate employment and, of course, create wealth. However, not everyone in the State shares this vision.
Privilege and corruption
To understand Orissa's trucks is to understand how privilege and corruption operate along dense, intricate networks where the legal and the illegal often overlap, making it impossible to make a concrete accusation. After all, what is an illegal mine? How can it be identified?
"It is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that the Union should take under its control the regulation of mines and the development of minerals to the extent hereinafter provided," states the preamble to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, one of a raft of laws and bylaws passed to govern the mining sector.
First enacted in 1957, and amended almost every four years up to 1999, the MMDR Act serves as the central axis on which mining law is framed. The Act classifies minerals into "minor" and "major" lists, lays down procedures for the granting of reconnaissance permits, prospecting licences and mining leases, and classifies violations and encroachments. While States have complete control over all minor minerals such as clay, gravel, sand and building stones, major minerals such as iron ore come under the purview of the Central government. For such minerals, Central permission is required prior to the granting of licence.
Apart from the MMDR Act, mining is subject to The Mines Act of 1952, the National Mineral Policy (amended in 1994), and a slew of laws concerning land acquisition and environmental assessment.
Acquiring a mining lease for a major mineral like iron ore or coal for a particular area is relatively easy now. The process has been simplified over the last 10 years, a development that has coincided with the liberalisation of the mining sector. Mining leases are granted on a `first-come, first-serve' basis, and the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy of 1999 allows for "up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment" in the mining and processing of minerals other than diamond, precious stones and atomic minerals. Thus, mining occupies a unique governmental space that is simultaneously highly legislated yet remarkably free of constraints for mine operators.
Under the laws governing mining, mines could be declared "illegal" on a number of grounds, the most obvious being that of mining in an area without applying for a lease. However, the pressure of rapid industrialisation has forced State governments to curb such practices.
"No illegal mining is possible without political patronage," says a senior officer in the Directorate of Mines, "and local politicians have realised that the land occupied by illegal miners can just as easily be handed over to giant corporations for similar favours." This is not to say that outright capture of areas for mining has stopped entirely in the iron belt. The most common examples of illegal mining occur on the boundary of legality, where the violator can claim a degree of innocence on the basis of ignorance of the law.
The most common form of illegality is to continue mining long after the lease has expired. A document obtained from the Directorate of Mines under the Right to Information Act provides a complete list of mining leases in Keonjhar. According to the Directorate's own figures, dated December 31, 2005, as many as 52 out of 119 mines, or more than 40 per cent of all mines in Keonjhar district covering 52 per cent of leased area, operate illegally on expired licences. Of these 52 mines, 10 belong to the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), a government-owned enterprise, and operate on 7,051 hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres) or a fifth of the total area under mining in the district.
Many in the industry argue that the issue of expired licences is not an indication of corruption per se as the government has been dragging its feet for years over their renewal. The failure to renew leases, particularly those held by a State-owned corporation, seems inexplicable until one unpacks the terms of the mining lease.
As pointed out by Ritwick Dutta in a compilation titled "Undermining India", the renewal of mining leases in forested areas has been the subject of much litigation since the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. Given that most mines, including those in Keonjhar, fall within the purview of this Act, the key question was whether the renewal of a mining lease required fresh permission of the Central government. The Supreme Court, in successive judgments, particularly in State of Tamil Nadu vs Hind Stones in 1981 and Samatha vs State of Andhra Pradesh in 1997, has ruled that the renewal of a mining lease is actually the grant of a fresh lease. Thus, a good reason for mining companies and associated State officials to go slow on the renewal of leases could be that, theoretically, the company shall have to reapply at the time of renewal and would be subject to monitoring by the Central Pollution Control Board, the Ministry of Environment and Forests and a host of other agencies.
Forest Act and mining
The Forest Conservation Act mandates that the Central government shall after careful examination of the proposal denotify forest land earmarked for mining and the mining company shall be subject to a series of restrictions to minimise the ecological footprint of the mine. It is also a useful tool to ensure that the mining companies stay within the areas allotted to them. Of course, the Forest Act, like any other Act, is only as good as its implementation.
Another document from the Directorate of Mines lists 40 mines in Keonjhar that are operating without clearance from the Forest Department; the OMC, once more, is one of the worst violators. District Forest Officer P.N. Karat says that as of February 2006 all such cases have been dealt with. However, this assessment is impossible to verify independently. In the absence of firm leases, many companies have been granted temporary licences, most of which are issued without guidelines or monitoring.
The absence of adequate monitoring is probably the most disturbing feature of the industry in Orissa. The highly technical language adopted by both the mining companies and the state effectively silences any local articulation of opposition by people directly affected by the projects. Thus, people's testimonies of a change in the colour of groundwater, an increase in the cases of asthma and respiratory conditions and a drop in the fertility of their fields are discounted in favour of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) readings collected by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and the findings of groundwater studies conducted by the State Groundwater Board that pollution is present but is within the mandated safety limit.
Barbil, to cite just one example, is a small town in the heart of the mining belt where it is difficult to breathe freely even during the day when the trucks do not run. But a study obtained from the SPCB states that the SPM readings in Barbil are "only" 456 micrograms per cubic metre against a reference value of 500 micrograms per cubic metre for mining areas, and so is acceptable. However, the Central Pollution Control Board reference value for "residential and rural areas" - which villages outside the mines are - is 200 micrograms per cubic metre and for a reserve forest, which could be classified as a "sensitive area" under the SPCB guidelines, it is 100 micrograms per cubic metre. Thus, the same arbitrarily fixed "standards" used to declare mining areas "pollution free" can just as easily be used to declare them unfit for human habitation.
Similarly, the only way to verify if a mining area corresponds to the area mentioned in the mining lease is to either refer to detailed contour maps in the possession of the government (and hence unavailable to the general public) or physically plot the coordinates of the mine using a global positioning system (GPS), which no one in Orissa has access to. Such opacity on the part of all privilege-holders in the system makes its impossible to level definite accusations against any party. But, as in all camouflaged sites, in Orissa, too, the veil slips occasionally to offer a glimpse of the arrogance of mining corporations vis-à-vis the law.
Road to nowhere
The road to Deojhar, as with most roads to hell, is paved with the best of intentions. Ostensibly built to connect Deojhar village to the highway under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Scheme, it has turned out to be a useful way to connect the mines to the national highway.
Few villagers use this road; there are too many trucks. Of late, the trucks plying on the Deojhar-NH 215 route have had to contend with more than just crater-size potholes - a fleet of bright orange earthmovers engaged in digging deep trenches along the road. These vehicles have been employed by the Jindal company, a consortium of companies with interests primarily in iron, steel and power, to supply water to their 2,000-hectare iron ore mine in the hills above Deojhar village.
"Jindal is laying a nine-kilometre pipeline to draw water from the Baitarani river," says Arjun Saraswat, deputy general manager of Sarda Mines Private Ltd., the company that possesses the lease for the Jindal land. "This water will be made available through the soon-to-be-completed Kanpur dam project." At the time of this article going to print, the digging was almost complete and pipes two feet (0.61 metre) in diameter had been laid along a stretch of 4.5 km.
But has Jindal acquired the necessary permissions for this pipeline?
"The Jindal company's demand for water has been approved `in principle'," says Harish Behera, Engineer-in-Chief (Water Resources) for Orissa. "But the technical parameters are to be worked out. No permission has been granted for any pipeline and, as of now, no project work has begun." Behera is responsible for the allocation of water resources for the entire State, but seems to be unaware that the pipeline work has not only begun but is nearing completion. When confronted with photographs on the project work taken by this correspondent, he said "the matter is currently under litigation".
What sort of litigation? For answers, one is directed to C.V. Prasad, Chief Engineer, Project Planning and Formulation, of the Orissa Water Department (Irrigation). Prasad is more forthcoming. "Jindal has been allotted 1,500 cubic metres of water an hour, drawn in a phased manner, from the Baitarani river project, but the project is still awaiting technical clearance. As of now, the construction is in violation of the law," he says. Prasad adds that his office has written to the company several times asking it to stop construction, most recently on January 16. "We were under the impression that construction had stopped."
Granting a project approval "in principle" is no indication of its merits or demerits; those are only evaluated in the technical approval stage when a detailed project report (DPR) is submitted. "In principle" approval only indicates that the company may go ahead and prepare a DPR. If Jindal's pipeline does not pass muster the company will be forced to remove it. In going ahead with the project, it believes, perhaps, that government approval is a foregone conclusion or that such approval is of little importance.
The Baitarani pipeline also begs another question. At present, where is Jindal drawing its water from? Deputy general manager Arjun Saraswat admits that Jindal is currently drawing water from borewells in their area, but is unwilling to quantify the volume of water drawn every day. "It is only used for domestic purposes," he says. However, officials at the SPCB office in Keonjhar reveal that Jindal uses a 10-kilolitre truck to carry out water sprinkling three times a day in the mining area, that is, 30,000 litres of water a day just for sprinkling.
Apart from this, the scale of the mining operation, with most of the permanent workers living in the mining area, suggests a reasonably high rate of water consumption even for domestic purposes. Even Jindal probably does not know how much water it uses because none of its tubewells is metered. However, one group of people has a fair idea.
Down the road from the mines, the residents of Deojhar have seen their streams dry up, the water table fall and the soil lose its fertility in the six years since Jindal began operations. "The very basis of village life has fallen apart since the project began," says Sridhar Nayak, a leader in Deojhar. The crops have died, there is no place to graze cattle, people cannot collect firewood in the project area and the handpumps yield foul, yellowish water. Nayak says the inevitable dust that any project breeds has severely affected the health of the residents, particularly the young, among whom the number of cases of lung congestion has increased.
When the project first began, protests were quelled by a combination of cajoling and coercion. A significant police presence was backed by promises of jobs, economic regeneration, security and "progress". Needless to say, none of it has materialised except, of course, the police, who regularly show up in impressive numbers to threaten `errant' residents.
The promise of prosperity - schools, hospitals, jobs - is usually the classic argument used to justify the well-documented horrors of mining. Minerals are a country's natural wealth, a gift from Mother Nature, a precious resource crucial to a nation's progress. The booming international market for metals has also cast mines and minerals as earners of valuable foreign exchange. It is hard to unpack the cold, hard logic of capital and corporations without sounding like a hopeless rural idealist. However, the people of Orissa are now asking who the beneficiaries of the mining sector really are. What if mining did not benefit the people it affected the worst?
After 60 years of Independence, villages at remote corners of East Singhbhum district can look forward to electrification.
The Jharkhand State Electricity Board's (JSEB) Jamshedpur circle is implementing the ambitious Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, a central government scheme, which will ensure cent per cent electrification of the rural areas in different phases.
About 170 villages under Ghatshila, Patamda and Jamshedpur divisions of the JSEB will be electrified by October 2008 under the programme which has to be completed within a period of 18 months from the time of commencement.
According to M.P. Chowdhary, the superintending engineer of Jamshedpur circle, the notification for commencement of the scheme here was made in February, but the real work towards its implementation has gaining momentum now.
Chowdhary, who is monitoring its progress, said the project had to be done in turnkey basis and for this three companies have shown their interest.
He pointed out that the companies have conducted a survey of the villages and would shortly meet the authorities concerned of the state power board for going ahead with the rural electrification project.
"According to the scheme, the interested companies have to provide the materials as well as the manpower for carrying out the project. And despite the fact that the project has to be completed within a time-frame of 18 months, the companies have to maintain the standards of rural electrification," he said.
He added that the three companies which have shown interest in the programme are Nagarjuna, Neon and ABL.