NOW A LEGAL GUARANTEE OF WORK FOR RURAL HOUSEHOLDS

NOW A LEGAL GUARANTEE OF WORK FOR RURAL HOUSEHOLDS

OrissaMatters Bureau

New Delhi

With the passage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill (NREGB) unanimously in both the Houses of Parliament this week, the right to work has been recognized as a legal right for the first time in India�s history.

Though limited to only 100 days of employment per rural household per year at a meager 60 rupees per day, the Bill makes the Government legally bound to provide unskilled manual work within 14 days to any rural households which apply for work failing which it will have to pay compensation. The Bill, to be implemented in 200 districts initially, will be extended to the entire country within five years.

The passage of the Bill witnessed some lively debates in both the Houses. Introducing it, Rural Development Minister Mr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh termed the Bill a �historic step� in fulfilling the first commitment in UPA�s National Common Minimum Programme. The BJP-led NDA, which had earlier declared its opposition to the Bill, seemed more than eager to rectify it by assuming a dramatically opposite stance in its favour. Taking part in the debate in Lok Sabha, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP MP from Orissa, termed the Bill as �revolutionary�� and demanded it to be extended to the whole of the country including urban areas and for all of 365 days in a year. Sharply attacking the government for providing a lowly wage of 60 rupees per day, he said the government was playing with the poor in the pretext of fiscal burden at a time when the salaries and allowances of MPs were being raised.

Left Pressure

Earlier, under intense pressure from the Left parties, the government had to incorporate some last minute changes and abandon a few controversial clauses. The earlier proposal to target the Below Poverty Line (BPL) households was dropped in favour of bringing all rural households into its fold. A clause, which provided for stopping of work in a district in the case of any reporting of corruption, had to be abandoned because it was condemned as an attempt to punish the poor for the evil deeds of government officials and contractors. The government also agreed to bear 90 percent of the implementation cost to which the States would contribute the remaining 10 percent instead of an earlier provision for 25 percent. A provision for 33 percent reservation in the wage works for women was also introduced.

Activists worried over wage

The People�s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), a coalition of mass organizations which spearheaded the sustained campaign in favour of the Bill right from its inception, has welcomed the passing of the Bill. It has, however, expressed dissatisfaction over some clauses, particularly the household approach and the wage rate of Rs. 60. �The Bill does not entitle each individual to get work of 100 days unlike what had been originally proposed. Fixing the wage at 60 rupees will also do an enormous disservice to workers in many States where the minimum wages are substantially higher, for example in Kerala where it is Rs. 134,� says Jean Dreze, convener of the PAEG and a former of National Advisory Council which drafted the original Bill. Aruna Roy, NAC member and co-convener of PAEG, terms the Government�s action as unconstitutional because it contravenes the Minimum Wages Act of 1948 which empowers individual States to fix their own wage rates.

The Bill has raised substantial interest in the country as well as abroad. Viewed as the biggest ever initiative of the Indian State in committing itself to welfare duties after a trend of withdrawal, it is being seen as an effective tool against poverty, if implemented sincerely and properly.

ORISSA IS IN THE WORST PHASE OF HER LIFE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa is in the worst phase of her life. Never before she had fallen in the hands of more scheming saboteurs.

How she is being denuded of her mineral and other natural wealth is not unknown. But the damage Naveen Patnaik is doing to Orissa’s present generation is beyond description.

His government is bent upon to kill our character. In every nook and corner of the State it is going to plant a wine shop.

As we see, ever since he has taken over the reign, the number of wine shops has continuously increased year after year. Last year it waxed to 2209. This year it will exceed 4000 as, according to Excise Minister Kalindi Behera, the Government has decided to issue license for further 1853 shops, which would include 1000 IMFL ‘ON’ shops, 503 ‘OFF’ shops, 188 Beer parlors and 162 Country Liquor shops. Over and above this, every ‘Motel’ and ‘Dhaba’ on the roadside through out the State shall get liquor-vending rights.

It is alarming that the State has no Excise Policy. It has framed only an annual policy for 2005-06 vide Excise department Notification No. I Ex-520/2004/ 1410 /Ex., dated 28.02.05. It is nothing but an executive order amenable to change any time at any stage by the apex manipulators having control over the department. There is no provision for accountability even under this so-called ‘Policy’, which is only yearly in import. It is formulated, framed and enforced behind back of Legislature. How the government has failed to use this Policy to stop illicit liquor trade and how taking advantage of the lacunas rampant in this Policy, the local distilleries and bottling plants have played havoc with the State Exchequer is a fit case for a social audit, if at all the Government accepts the suggestion.

But a cursory look at it reveals that the Government has no regards even for this Policy of their own. I am quoting only three of its provisions: –

“New IMFL ‘ON’ shops/ Beer parlor (ON) may be opened according to the need”. (Clause VIII-b);

“New IMFL ‘Off’ shops may be opened wherever conditions so demand. (Clause XVI);

“New Beer Parlors may be opened wherever the condition so demands” (Clause VIII-h).

It is clear from the fore going three quoted provisions that opening of ON shops of IMFL or Beer shall depend upon the “need” or “demand” of the people of the concerned locality.

Naveen Patnaik and his Excise Minister should place before the public the details of the “need” and/or “demand” they have had to satisfy in issuing further 1853 licenses. I am sure, they cannot. Because people of Orissa are neither in need of this nor have they demanded for this. On the other hand, issuance of license is dependant on recommendation based on socio-legal and behavioral mind-set of the people in whose area the ON shops are to open. To quote the Policy under Clause XVI, “While recommending the proposals for grant of license for ON shops, the locality, the habit of the people living, sensitivity to law and order situation etc. should be taken care of”. Has the Government taken into consideration these aspects before deciding the number of licenses to open around 2000 more ON shops and to grant right to every roadside Motel and Dhaba to vend liquor? No. Never.

Who is the Kalapahada? Naveen or Kalandi? Or Naveen’s entire Cabinet collectively? Do you need to know the identity of Kalapahada? He was an India born bastard that was working for his masters of foreign link and was the person, who had, in order to benefit them, desecrated Orissa’s revered Deities and played havoc with the socio-economic and political life of its people in the 16th Century A.D. When Orissa’s present Government is desecrating our Constitution, whom must we designate as the Kalapahada? I leave the decision to you.

Look at our women folk living in remote villages. Thousands of them have been agitating against State support to liquor trade. Naveen regime’s Police has often used force against them and harassed them with concocted cases.

But they have been fighting. Fighting against all odds.

They know that their economy is ruined, family life shattered as the male folk get dragged into the grip of intoxication. To them, freedom means freedom of their male folk from wine. To fetch this freedom they have been fighting against Police, against the agents of wine traders who have infested our system.

They are not aware of our Constitution. They are not educated to understand our Constitution. But their fight is linked to success of our Constitution.

Our founding fathers had framed the Constitution keeping them in mind. Hence their agitation against wine is their agitation in support of our Constitution albeit without their knowledge.

Those who are educated and expected to have understood it, those who are elected and taken oath to safe guard it, are acting against it. If you do not belong to this later category, please see what our Constitution has said.

Our Constitution, under Article 47, has said, “the State shall endeavour, amongst its primary duties, to bring about, in particular, prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks”. The use of the term “in particular” has given the provision a mandatory import. Naveen and his Ministers have no respect for this. Should we live like silent spectators?

Make note of it please and act, as you like.

MRINAL’S NEW BOOK: A FRESH CONTRIBUTION TO STUDY JOURNALISM

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is a fresh contribution, not new. Mrinal Chatterjee�s � Ganamadhyama O Sambadikata� (Mass Communication and Journalsim) was first published in 1998. On 18th August 2005 its second edition has come out.

Releasing the book, former Chief Secretary of Orissa, Sudhansu Mohan Mishra highlighted the role journalists play in nation building. But, it is journalism through which the world has come closer, he said, stressing that being a world phenomena, it has developed into a science of complete communication. He recommended Mrinal�s book for better understanding and use of this science.

Mrinal, a working journalist of yester years has switched over to didactics in the discipline and is working at present as an Associate Professor in Indian Institute of Mass Communication.

He has dealt with the subject in 14 chapters with specific emphasis on reporting. The modern avenues of journalism like Television and Internet are taken as subject matters of different chapters even as reporting rural scenario and developmental projects are dealt with in elaborate instructions.

Written in lucid Oriya, the book is a step-by-step guide to performing professionals.

But, if a general reader wants to know of the role of media in State building, he or she may stumble onto the fact that professionalism has not grown in the area of print journalism in Orissa. Most of the owners and/or editors of mainstream newspapers in the State are in active politics. Hence their respective media organizations are often addressed to suppress or manufacture or twist information in manners most suitable to their ambitions or designs. This is harming the media in two ways: firstly, majority of news space is spoiled in political hocus-pocus and secondly, but most regrettably, credibility of media is in sharp decline.

Mrinal Chatterjee�s book offers many such bona fide matters to ponder over.

WHERE IS ORISSA HIGH COURT?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Search for information on Indian Judiciary in the Web. You will find the Supreme Court of India and several High Courts including the High Courts of junior States like Jharkhand and Chhatishgarh. But you will not find the High Court of Orissa.
This Court is now in news for another event. Some one has tampered with its communication in a case. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting an enquiry into the matter.

That some one could engineer such a mischief is enough indication of decline in respect for the court in howsoever small quarters might that be. One comes across people who prefer to suffer than moving the court for justice simply because they have no time to limp in litigations.

Most of the litigants are spending years in waiting for their respective cases to proceed. They are not convinced that there is no unusualness in this.

Manipulation in listing, which is a strong factor of delay in timely disposal of cases, having been felt profusely, it was decided to computerize the courts to restore peoples faith in judicature.

Accordingly computerization of courts started 15 years ago in 1990. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) was given this responsibility. Within these 15 years, it has implemented many applications in computerization of the Supreme Court and several High Courts, which have either direct or indirect beneficial impact on litigants.

One of these applications is the List of Business Information System (LOBIS). It is about listing or scheduling of cases to be heard by the courts on the following day. It enables the Registries of Supreme Court and High Courts in eliminating manual process of Cause List generation; thus any manipulation by vested interests. These databases contain details of fresh cases, disposed and pending cases. It is the backbone application of every Court.

It is mentioned in the Supreme Court Website that implementation of this application has been found beneficial in the following manner:
As Cause Lists are generated automatically by the computer, manual intervention has been eliminated resulting in generation of Cause List in time with out any hassle;
Cases are listed strictly in chronological order of date of filing; eliminated irregularities;
All cases having the same law point(s) to be decided by the courts are bunched/grouped and posted before one bench. This has helped the courts in faster disposal of cases;
It has become simpler to recall dismissed cases when review petitions are filed;
On the spot reliable and instantaneous statistical reports are generated;
It has helped Registry of Supreme Court in streamlining its day to day activities to achieve one of the main objectives of COURTIS Project

But these benefits are not available to the litigant public of Orissa. The Orissa High Court has no website of its own as a result of which judicial information is not easily available.

Case status is available to watch in respect of High Courts at Delhi, Rajsthan (at both Jodhpur and Jaipur), Gujrat, Patna, Andhra pradesh, Bombay and its Bench at Goa, the High Court of judicature both at Allahabad and Lucknow as well as the High court of Calcutta. But as Orissa High Court has no website, this facility is not available to the public as well as the lawyers.
The NIC must say or be made to say as to why it has failed to develop the website of Orissa Judicature.

Will the people at the helm of affairs in the State come forward with an answer?

PURI ACTIVISTS PROTEST AGAINST SOCIAL SLAVERY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is a matter of shock that Orissa, homeland of the most tolerant people, has a social custom that keeps the members of a particular caste as social slaves. Barbers comprise this caste.

We have in these pages highlighted how they are being compelled by the upper caste Hindus to wash the feet of hundreds of their guests in social functions like marriage and funeral ceremonies and to clean up their orts in feasts on these occasions and to carry out other odd jobs to the detriment of their human rights.

Since many years, the barber caste people have been protesting against this oppressive custom. But it does not relent.

It is a fact that the barbers are an abysmally small minority group. There may be hardly one or two families of barbers in a village or in a cluster of villages. So they are powerless before the massive majority belonging to other castes.

A family in a village cannot live all alone by itself. It is to depend on the village for water, fire, food, road, residence, education and safety. Therefore, one who goes against traditional customs is disciplined by the majority that usually forbids him or her to use the wells, ponds and roads of the village and is boycotted in every other respect. Hence it is impossible on part of a village dweller to disobey the majority or the influential in the village. Barbers are under this turmoil in Orissa.

Traditionally the village barber was washing the feet of every visiting guest of an upper caste Hindu and cleaning up his orts. But as the new generation got educated they expressed reluctance to perform such offending and embarrassing jobs. Therefore they have been subjected to the above said methods of punishment.

This having given birth to a tussle, particularly in Puri district where Brahminism rules the roost under umbrage of the ‘Mukti Mandapa’, the Collector of the district had to intervene to bring out a compromise. But in its guise he acted as a collaborator of the social slavery. He got several resolutions passed on May 19, 2003 in a gathering of upper caste Hindus and barbers and used choicest words to coin the resolutions in such a manner that the slavery remains perpetual. When no barber can be compelled to wash feet of the masters or clean orbs, no body can be allowed to dissuade any barber from doing such jobs if the said barber volunteers his services, two of the resolutions said. The later one was clearly designed against human rights activists who were supporting the rebels against the system of slavery. It is more shocking than surprising that Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik tacitly supported it while replying in the proximate session of the Assembly to a question on ongoing atrocities on barbers. This opened up floodgates of “trafficking in barbers for servitude” alleged human rights workers.

Orissa Bonded Labor Liberation Movement, styled as Odisha Gotimukti Andolana, raised alert protests against this nefarious administrative mischief and demanded immediate complete abolition of social ownership over the barbers. A sitting in strike agitation continued at Puri for long 271 days, which compelled the present Collector, Aswini Kumar Das, to initiate fresh conciliatory steps. He issued orders on November 05, 2004 to the effect that action under section 108 Cr.P.C. would be taken against anybody who boycotts a barber in his village for his refusal to wash anybody’s feet or to clean the orbs. But his later views in the media that these customs being societal, law alone cannot stop “trafficking in willing barbers” has rendered his earlier orders inconsequential in the field.

Therefore the activists have sharpened their action. They have held two “liberation” rallies so far. The first one was on April 05, 2005 at the Collectorate of Puri. The last one was held at the same place on August 23, “on the occasion of the International Day for the Remembrance of Abolition of Slave Trade”.

Thousands of barbers and their sympathizers as well as human rights activists under the leadership of Baghambar Pattanaik, Sarada Charan Mohanty and the convener of the Movement, Ms. Swati Sucharita, formed a human chain, which was “dragged” by a “masker” of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the streets of Puri to the Collectorate , where they submitted a Memorandum to the President of India through the Collector demanding immediate abolition of the custom of use of Barbers in feet washing and orb cleaning, as that reduce the dignity of man, referred to in the Supplementary Convention as “practices similar to slavery”.

SUDARSAN PATTANAIK HONORED BY RASTRAPATI

Sudarsan Pattanaik, the world famous sand artist of Orissa, is one who could be cited as an instance of what a person can do with determination, dedication and devotion to his work. We proudly publish the Rastrapati Bhawan Press Release on this unique Oriya.-Editor

SAND ARTIST SUDARSHAN PATTNAIK MEETS PRESIDENT

22-08-2005 : Rashtrpati Bhavan, New Delhi

PRESS RELEASE
The well-known sand artist, Shri Sudarshan Pattnaik met the President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today at Rashtrapati Bhavan and presented a photograph of his prize winning entry at the 3rd International Sand Sculpture Competition 2005 in Berlin.
The entry won a prize competing against entries from around the world. The 20 foot high sand sculpture called, “World Peace”, features Mahatma Gandhi and the three famous monkeys who teach not to see evil, hear evil or speak evil.

Shri Pattnaik has been creating sand sculptures for the past more than a decade in Puri, Orissa.

The NEWS Syndicate

The manner in which Orissa Assembly Speaker Maheshwar Mohanty is treating the Opposition is a great danger to democracy, alleged senior Congress leader and Chief Advisor to Rajiv Gandhi Forum, Dr. Ratnakar Pandey, in a press conference at Bhubaneswar on August 21.

Democracy cannot countenance that Opposition members be punished with cash-fine just because their demand for impartial enquiry into rampant corruption and crimes like tender fixing under the umbrage of the Chief Ministers own coterie was heightened by them in matching force to Governments recalcitrant conduct in the floor of the House, he said.

Dr. Pandey stressed on this point that the Legislative Assembly is neither a Court nor the Speaker is the Judge. It is a rampart of democracy and the Speakers main function is to ensure that the prerogative of the Opposition to expose administrative misdeeds and to demand for appropriate remedy is not affected by the advantage of a majority under command of the Government. Instead of sloughing over the recalcitrant attitude of the Government the Speaker should have issued a direction for a CBI enquiry into the tender scandal specifically as the media had exposed the nexus between the mafia and ruling party MLAs. It would have been in total consonance with the prerogatives vested in the Speaker and democracy could have been saved from being offended.

He emphasized that the cash penalty imposed by the Speaker on three Congress MLAs is unprecedented and untenable. It shall have to be recalled if the democracy is to run free of whims and caprices.