STALEMATE ON NINTH DAY! OPPN MEMBER RENDERED SENSELESS

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Congress member Tara Pr. Bahinipati fell down senseless when he was trying to climb on the Speakers podium even as business of the House remain halted for the ninth consecutive day on March 30, 2006. Opposition alleges that he was rendered senseless by the security personnel trained recently in martial art.

The Speaker does not agree. Bahinipati was perhaps exhausted under ultra activism, he says.

The Opposition has been trying to make the Government answerable to the Assembly in the matter of hooch tragedy that caused at least 30 deaths in the district of Ganjam in the last fortnight. The Excise Minister Kalandi Behera, under whose umbrage corrupt officers were patronizing the hooch trade, must resign or be dismissed so that enquiry over the tragedy does not get lost in the labyrinth of an administration that should be working under control of the said minister. As the tragedy happened when the Assembly was in session and as the Government has announced a judicial inquiry when the session is continuing, the Opposition interprets that constitution of the said commission of inquiry would automatically carry its consent. Therefore the Opposition is determined to see that the inquiry is not eclipsed by the presence of the Minister in the department.

But neither the Minister wants to relinquish nor the Chief Minister makes him relinquish the portfolio. This is interpreted by Opposition as refusal of the Government to remain answerable to the House. How can we allow the House to continue under such shadows? The Opposition justifies its stand with this question.

This principled stand is not of course understood by many.

ORISSA GETS THE SIXTH ULTRA MEGA POWER PROJECT: SITE SHORT LISTED

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The High Level Team from Ministry of Power, Central Electricity Aauthority (CEA) and Power Finance Commission (PFC) that visited Orissa from 21st March to 24th March, 2006, has short listed three sites Hirma, Derabahal and Bhashma for an Ultra Mega Power Project of 4000 MW capacity to be set up in Orissa with a cost of Rs.15,000 cr.

The choice of Orissa, according to officials, is a natural one, as it has a suitable coast as well as extensive coal deposits.

It is understood that the Union Coal Secretary has indicated that Orissa would be a State where captive coal blocks would be given for development of Ultra Mega Power Project.

Based on the report of the High Level Committee and the views of Union Coal Secretary, PFC has decided that Orissa will be home to the Sixth Ultra Mega Power Project which will be a coal pithead project based on indigenous coal and is likely be handed over to the developer to start its construction works by May, 2007.

At the time of writing this report, information reaches that the central government has also accepted Andhra as the seventh destination.

The Ultra Mega Power Projects planned by Ministry of Power have to be developed through competitive bidding and should have the following innovative and state-of-the-art features–
(a) Use of Super Critical and Ultra Super Critical Technology.
(b) Use of Clean Coal Technology (CCT)
Economy of Scale.
(d) 100% Ash Ultilisation and
(e) Emission Trading.

For these features, the cost of electricity to be generated from the Ultra Mega Power Project will be in the range of Rs.1.60 to Rs.1.80 Paise per Unit, it is calculated.

When thus Orissa shall be having a hundred percent environmentally congenial Thermal Power Plant, under the central policy, she is expected to receive 35% of the 4000 MW as her share amounting to about 1400 MW of Ultra Mega Power towards 2011-12. Orissa Government has failed to claim its share of energy at Ib as a result of which, as reported earlier, we have lost thousands of crores of Rupees. One may hope that we should handle this issue with such involvement that we will never miss our share this time, which will fulfill at least 15% of the additional generation capacity of 9000 MW required by the our State if VISION-2010 is not to be lost.

MEDIACRACY IN ACTION

NAVEEN VERSUS BUDDHIA SINGH IN ETV TRICKS: CREDIBILITY IS AT STAKE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Electronic media major ETV is busy in playing a trick in Orissa, which, if everything goes clockwise, may help Naveen Patnaik repair his credibility.

Patnaik’s credibility as Chief Minister has suffered a set back in a media forum that was earlier showing him in high level of rating. To many amongst the State’s media watchers, profuse flow of advertisements from Orissa’s power corridors to this periodical was matching with the rise of Naveen in the rating chart. But the position has changed a few months ago. Patnaik’s rank has declined.

Following the decline in media rating, Patnaik’s ability to retain his so-called clean image has also declined in public eyes. His eagerness to denude Orissa of her mineral wealth, his nonchalant attitude to sufferings of the displaced, his devastative dependence on sycophants in BJD and in bureaucracy, his failure to deliver benefits of the welfare projects to the rural poor, his failure to reduce the burden of unemployment, his inability to answer the questions posed by the Opposition, his lack of respect for Oriya language, his failure to protect Orissa borders, his reluctance to learn Oriya dialect, his deliberate distance from Oriya nationalism and the cruelty his government has shown for the tribal proletariats of Orissa are factors of further decline of his credibility. He is so demoralized that he has no courage to visit the victims of plutocratic assault at Kalinga Nagar although around a hundred days have elapsed since the massacre. So, he desperately needs to repair his credibility. How otherwise can he stay in power?

Who other than the media can help him?

Who can help him better than a powerful TV channel?

Hence the ETV programme designed to project a person as the most credible amongst the Oriyas (PRIYA ORIYA) attracts attention. It has now bracketed five persons as persons allegedly elected by the general public of Orissa out of which it is going to conduct a poll through SMS to find out who is the most credible person in Orissa. In this list of five final round credible persons, besides Naveen Pattanayak, four other names figure. They are Dillip Tirkey, Manoj Das, Nandita Das and Buddhia Singh. Do all these four persons know that each of them is in a contest against the Chief Minister of the State on the question of credibility? Excepting Buddhia Singh, none of these four persons is a regular resident of Orissa. Nandita, an actress, stays outside Orissa. Dillip, the Hockey player, find seldom time to stay in Orissa. Monoj Das resides at Pondichery. So, to expect any of them to challenge the Chief Minister in the credibility contest within the limits of Orissa would be bizarre. The only one left is Buddhia Singh.

Buddhia Singh is yet to be 5.

Son of a wretchedly poor mother residing in a Bhubaneswar slum, when in desperate search for food for instant survival, his perseverance caught attention of Mr. Biranchi Das, Secretary of Orissa Judo Association, who, seeing in him the qualities of hitting at a target, took the child to his fold and lunched him into the world of sports as the youngest marathon runner our society has ever come across.

Excepting this, Buddhia is disadvantaged in every other aspect. He has no money, no man-power. The State Government has put many an obstacles on his way. Even it has not hesitated to instruct the Collectors and S.P.s of all the Districts to disallow Buddhia to take part in any marathon run as and when that takes place in any place under their respective jurisdiction. A member of Naveen’s cabinet has raised obnoxious allegations against Das for having lunched him in marathon races, which, aimed understandably at demoralizing him, has led the issue into court of law.

Buddhia Singh is yet to be 5.

He has no education to understand the meaning of ETV agenda.

He has no experience of any such contest.

He has no knowledge to comprehend for what purpose the contest is contemplated.

He has no scope to organize support through SMS.

He has no need to establish his credibility vis-a-vis the Chief Minister.

In fact, none of the so-called contestants has given his or her consent to contest. A list of persons fit for the contest was arbitrarily drawn out of which the current list of five has been generated through managed polls sans any legal sanction.

None of the four projected by ETV as contestants against the Chief Minister stand on a level ground vis-a-vis him.

What would be the final outcome? One of the five shall be declared by ETV as the best amongst the Oriyas, the most beloved (PRIYA) person.

Has the race of the Oriyas, as a body, asked or allowed ETV to conduct such a selection?

How dare it is doing this?

Its activities, considered in the context of Naveen Patnaik’s necessity to repair his credibility, look like tricks.

It looks like an instance of how mediacracy can make its design work against people who fail to remain eternally vigilant.

ORISSA FINDS PLACE IN ULTRA MEGA PROJECT MAP

Ministry of Power, Govt. of Indias ambitious Ultra Mega Power Projects have found an address in Orissa as Power Finance Corporation (PFC) the Nodal Agency for setting up of Ultra Mega Power Projects in the Country has decided to set up Sixth Ultra Mega Power Project of the Country in Orissa at an expenditure of Rs.15000 Cr.

Earlier under the new Ultra Mega Power Policy of Govt. of India, Mr. P. Chidambaram while tabling the Budget for FY 2006-07 in Parliament on 28.02.2006 intimated that Power Finance Corporation (PFC) has been authorized to form 5 nos. of Shell Companies for installation of five Ultra Mega Power Projects of 4000 MW each at the cost of Rs.15,000 Cr. each. PFC has already installed the following 5 nos. Shell Companies to finalize the site, Fuel linkage in Captive Mining Blocks, Water availability, Environment and Forest clearance, Land requisition etc. so as to handover the projects to developers through competitive bidding by end of December 2006/March 2007:-

(a) Sasan (Madhya Pradesh)
(b) Akaltara (Chhatisgarh)
(c) Mundra (Gujarat)
(d) Tadri (Karnataka)
(e) Ratnagiri (Maharastra).

Power Finance Corporation has already invited Expression of Interest (EoI) for selection of developers for setting up Ultra Mega Power Project (4000 MW) on Build, Own and Operate (BOO) basis at Sasan (MP), Mundra (Gujarat) and Tadri (Karnataka). PFC has received 33 nos. of Expression of Interest (EoI) for Sasan Project in Madhra Pradesh and 34 nos. of EOI in Mundra Project (Gujarat) on 28.02.2006 which are being valued at Rs.6,00,000 Cr. EoI for Tadri will be opened on 10th April, 2006.

The Ultra Mega Power Projects planned by Ministry of Power have the following innovative and state-of-the-art features for which the cost of electricity to be generated from the Ultra Mega Power Project will be in the range of Rs.1.60 to Rs.1.80 Paise per Unit.

(a) Use of Super Critical and Ultra Super Critical Technology.
(b) Use of Clean Coal Technology (CCT)
(c) Economy of Scale.
(d) 100% Ash Ultilisation
(e) Emission Trading.

The High Level Team from Ministry of Power, CEA and PFC visited Orissa from 21st March to 24th March, 2006, visited probable sites and after discussion with the State Government, submitted the report based on which PFC now decided to award one Ultra Mega Power Project to Orissa, which will be a coal pithead based on indigenous coal and is likely to start its construction works by May, 2007.

Andhra Government has also put up their claim for allocation of an Ultra Mega Power Project at Krishnapatnam in Nellore District. Govt. of India is yet to take a decision in the matter.

Due to such policy decision of Govt. of India, Orissa is expected to receive 35% share i.e. about 1400 MW of Ultra Mega Power towards2011-12 at a cost of Rs.1.60 Rs.1.80 per Unit which will fulfill at least 15% of the additional capacity of 9000 MW required by the State of Orissa as per VISION-2010.

HOOCH HORROR

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

IS EXCISE MINISTER TRYING TO FRIGHTEN OPPOSITION INTO SILENCE?

After Rabinarayan Nanda failed to purchase silence of the Opposition, is Kalandi Behera trying to frighten the Opposition into silence? It is a question that has started shaking every conscious mind in Orissa.

The crux of the issue raised by the Opposition in its attempt to make the Excise minister accountable to the House is the question as to why he refused to transfer the excise officers who were being looked at askance by the Collector of the district of Ganjam on the basis of their hobnobbing with the liquor mafia.

The Collector had filed a secret report to the concerned authority naming the officers involved. The Excise Commissioner had taken steps for their transfer. But his steps were allegedly stymied by the departmental Minister, Mr. Kalandi Behera. This being known, the Collector had moved the Chief Minister to intervene and ensure that the nexus between the excise officers and the liquor mafia in Ganjam is terminated as soon as possible by way of transferring the officers, as otherwise, termination of many a lives under the flow of hooch may not be ruled out. The Chief Minister had reportedly asked the Excise minister to see that the Collector’s report from the field is not left in the lurch. But, according to information with the Opposition, executive’s attempts to transfer the said officers were stalled by the Minister.

The result is the hooch tragedy that has killed 31 persons and pushed as many as 50 persons to permanent blindness.

But this is not new. Since Naveen Patnaik has usurped power, hooch tragedies have happened many a times. Like this time, judicial enquiries have also been used as ways to escape on earlier occasions. Enquiries do not grant relief to the victim; they grant time to the perpetrators to engineer how people’s resentment would fissile away. And, thus, the work of the mafia goes on unhindered.

Let us look at the Judicial Commission appointed by Naveen Patnaik to enquire into the hooch tragedy that had visited Puri in the second year of his incumbency as Chief Minister. The Commission has reportedly held an Excise Inspector, Pramod Mohanty, guilty of collaboration with the perpetrator of the crime. This Pramod Mohanty is a factor of the crisis that is hunting Orissa Assembly at the moment.

The Opposition found that the Government was sleeping over the Commission’s Report. On inklings that the Report may be suppressed, the Opposition took an unprecedented step of Assembly activism to obtain a copy of the Report and placed the same in the House, thereby causing its entry into records, following which the Government was so much exposed that it was difficult on its part to overcome its own confusion. A Minister of State, Mr. Rabinarayan Nanda, was named by the enquiry judge and, therefore, the Opposition demanded that he should not be allowed to further harm our State with his tainted presence in the Council of Ministers. He allegedly tried to purchase silence of the Opposition. Congress member Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra recorded the Minister’s adventures over phone wherein he had ventured to offer money if the Opposition does not press for his resignation. Exposed, he had to submit his resignation.

But Pramod Mohanty, the Excise Inspector, suspended from service after the Puri tragedy, notwithstanding being held by the Commission of Enquiry as heavily responsible for the said tragedy, continued to be in the close circle of the Excise Minister.

In the Enquiry Report, Opposition says, the Minister apart, Mahanty is pointed out as a patron of the hooch syndicate. This is, in a sense, a confirmation of what he was in the eyes of administration. He was spotted by administrative machinery as the official muscle of the hooch operator. He was therefore suspended.

While continuing under suspension, Mohanty has emerged as the inner most confidant of the Excise Minister. The Opposition is harping on this point. How is it that this suspended officer is being seen as the de facto Excise minister in the corridors of his department? The Opposition wants to know.

Minister Kalandi Behera is quite in a fix over this. If he fails to extricate himself from the shrouding suspicion, he has no ethical right to continue as a minister, as, according to the Opposition, his continuance in office would continue to put administration in jeopardy.
The House has been halted for the sixth consecutive day over the tricky but tersely relevant question: can administration co-op with any investigation into the Ganjam hooch tragedy with Behera as the Excise Minister? Can the enquiry be impartial?

Neither the Minister nor the Chief Minister is in a position, it seems, to convince the Opposition or the people that investigation into the hooch tragedy will not be affected by continuance of Kalandi Behera in the post of Excise Minister. It puts the Opposition in advantage.

To eliminate this advantage, Rabinarayan Nanda’s reported method of purchasing silence having failed, has the disadvantaged Minister engineered the method of silencing Opposition through physical assault?

This question rings and rings, even as the Assembly remains halted for six consecutive days and the State remains far away from punishing its guilty functionaries under whose umbrage liquor mafia has played the game of death on our people.

OLA IN TOIL: OPPOSITION ADAMANT ON EXCISE MINISTER’S REMOVAL

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Excise Minister Kalandi Behera is responsible for the latest hooch tragedy that has extinguished at least 31 human lives in Ganjam, feels the Opposition. It is adamant on his removal. The House toiled hard but failed on March 24 to proceed as the Opposition refused to soften its stance.

As I had exposed in these pages
that Behera was determined to open liquor counters in every nook and corner of Orissa.

Ever since the present Chief Minister has come to power, the State has seen continuous rise in number of wine shops. It had waxed to 2209 in 2004 when Behera wanted the figure to exceed 4000 in 2005. He had decided to issue license for further 1853 shops, including 1000 IMFL ‘ON’ shops, 503 ‘OFF’ shops, 188 Beer parlors and 162 Country Liquor shops over and above liquor-vending rights granted to every ‘Motel’ and ‘Dhaba’ on the roadside through out the State.

It was alarming.

Sans any Excise Policy of regular nature, the department was being driven by Behera under a temporary Notification bearing No. I Ex-520/2004/ 1410 /Ex., dated 28.02.05.

It was nothing but an executive order amenable to change any time at any stage by the apex manipulators having control over the department. There was no provision for accountability even under this so-called ‘Policy’, which was only yearly in import. It was formulated, framed and enforced behind back of Legislature.

A cursory look at it revealed that the Government had no regards even for this Policy of their own. I quoted in the linked write-up 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 was clear from the fore going three quoted provisions that opening of ON shops of IMFL or Beer would depend upon the “need” or “demand” of the people of the concerned locality.

I had insisted that Naveen Patnaik and his Excise Minister should place before the public the details of the “need” and/or “demand” they had had to satisfy in issuing further 1853 licenses.

I was sure; there was no demand from the people for such shops. Neither their “need” was assessed. On the other hand, issuance of license was dependant on recommendation based on socio-legal and behavioral mind-set of the people in whose area the ON shops were to open. The so-called Policy under Clause XVI had stipulated, “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”. There was no such recommendation from any authority anywhere.

Had 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.

Neither in the media nor in politics had any body raised these issues.

But confronted with these issues, the Government had to relent. In November 2005, the Chief Minister had to use his prerogatives to stop distribution of licenses his minister had so eagerly finalized. We had no reluctance in praising Naveen Patnaik as he rectified the wrong his colleague was going to perform. And, we alone had done that.

Now the Opposition has caught Kalindi Behera for what he has done thereafter.
What has happened in all the districts has not yet caught attention. But death of 31 persons after consuming illicit liquor in Ganjam district has raised the curtain, though partially, exposing how Behera has been protecting the departmental stooges of the liquor mafia.

After the Chief Minister used his prerogative to withhold licenses, Excise officers close to the Minister heightened their help to the liquor underworld. Perhaps the Collector of Ganjam was more vigilant. He apprised the Excise Commissioner of how certain members of Excise staff were helping hooch operators and wanted their transfer from the district so that a hooch tragedy could be avoided. The Commissioner could not act as the Minister came to the rescue of the miscreants. The Opposition does not say this much only. According to its information, having failed to get the erring officers transferred through the Commissioner, the Collector placed his observations before the Chief Minister. The later Okayed the suggestions of the Collector and instructed Behera to do the needful. But Behera sloughed that over.

Hence, in the eyes of the Opposition, Behera is culprit number one. How can the House tolerate his incumbency without running away from its responsibility? How else to make the Government accountable?

DEMOCRACY IN DILEMMA:

MAJORITY DIDNT OPPOSE CUT MOTION: STILL OLA OKAYED ENERGY DEMAND!

(Subhas Chandra Pattanayak)

Forget the unattached members. The members of the ruling coalition are 93 in number; BJD 61 and BJP 32. Out of them, only 39 members opposed the cut motion moved by the Opposition on the Energy department demand for grants. This means 54 out of 93 members of the treasury bench did not oppose the cut motion moved by the Opposition. It further means 108 out of total 147 members of the House did not oppose the cut motion. But the Orissa Legislative Assembly Okayed on March 23 the demand for grants of Rs.115. 87 crore sought for by the department of energy.

May it be a mockery of democracy? Think as you like. But it is a reality in Orissa.

When debate was going on, there was hardly any in the treasury side who participated but did not castigate the Government for total chaos in power sector. So, non-opposition to Oppositions cut motion by 54 of the 93 members of the treasury benches cannot but be read in the light of views expressed against governments lackadaisical role in energy management.

True, the Opposition could not pay attention to the division engaged as it was in the well of the House in the more clamant matter of hooch tragedy where ministers were conspicuous by their discovered involvement. But, can we say for sure, that the House fairly and unambiguously granted the demand of the energy department?

When democracy is in a dilemma, who can draw a conclusion?