BHUBANESWAR MAYOR OFFENDS THE LADIES, BOTH CORPORATORS & THE COMMISSIONER

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Absolutely unprecedented it is in the history of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).

But when a protg of the Chief Minister happens to be the Mayor, not to have played with the dignity of the lady colleagues while the Council was in session would have remained unprecedented in the annals of Biju legacy that these fellows claim to have inherited.

Mrs. Basanti Bara, the then lady Chairperson of Kutra Block in Sundergarh District was subjected to sexual harassment by the departmental Minister Damodar Raut who was such a satyr that he went to the extent of fondling her upper front taking advantage of the only gas lamp going dim for whatever reason in the evening on the podium of the public meeting he had addressed. The world knows that Indias National Commission for Women had investigated into this matter and passed severe strictures against the Minister. But to Biju Patnaik, then the Chief Minister, it was an act of manly guts that, he was happy, his Minister had displayed!

This being Biju legacy, the BJD Mayor has nothing to worry as long as his co-heirs to the legacy are in power. The lady Commissioner as well as the ladies in the Council may acquiesce into political overbearing and hereafter keep mum. But the way they reacted to the manners of the Mayor on 27 July 2006 would remain a reminder of how the occasion was for them to feel that the first citizen of the Capital City is a male supremacist.

The deplorable development got its flow from the natural water flow between Sahidnagar and Satyanagar getting blocked by a mafia within the limits of the Municipal Ward that Ms. Urmila Das is representing. There is an ancient drain from time immemorial sandwiched by these two localities through which rain water as well as sewage flows away giving relief to the inhabitants to a large extent. An unknown land-grabber has been tampering with this natural facility by filling it up with solid waste and soil. He is working out his plan clandestinely and safely as the general public is taking it to be a genuine official programme. Ms. Das, in the monthly meeting of the BMC, wanted to know who is filling up the ancient drain and why. Mayor Mihir Mohanty sloughed it over. Ms. Das remained standing for twenty minutes while insisting upon an answer. Mohanty feigned ignorance but later informed that the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) is doing it. Then how is it that the BMC vehicles are being used? -asked she. Her insistence annoyed the Mayor so much that he, without any qualm, hurled words which may be termed obnoxious. Refusing to be cowed down, Ms. Das further asked as to why the road repair of Sahidnagar area is not being taken up even though that is taking a turn to worse everyday. But the Mayor did not pay any attention to her. This contemptuous attitude infuriated the women corporators who stood firmly with Ms. Das when the lady Commissioner Ms. Aparajita Sarangi thought it prudent to prevail upon the Mayor that public in Sahidnagar being in utter disadvantage due to damaged roads, repair thereof should be taken up without resorting to the time consuming Tender call process. The Mayor mistook it as a display of women solidarity and was so aggressively gruff at the lady Commissioner that she left the Hall in protest.

The meeting had to be adjourned under that unrelentingly acrimonious circumstance; but when after launch it resumed, the predicament refused to recede.

The matter has hit headlines. But the Mayor does not bother. Party machines of both BJD and BJP are in motion to make their respective lady corporators understand that sentimentalism will not help in urban area politics, particularly in the capital city.

GAGGING OF WEB SITES: DESIRABLE BUT DANGEROUS

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

To the Communists, the Central Governments new method of bridling the ultra-right electronic media may seem desirable at the moment, but it is the most dangerous design against Communism.

In these pages I have earlier discussed how a section of electronic media, particularly the poppet TV channels were used to confuse voters during the general elections in order to ensure that the agents of the rich and the black-marketers and the hoarders and the profiteers benefit.

I dislike discussing the dark side of a dead man. But the way most of the TV channels ignored our right to news by relentless telecast only on Pramod Mahajan when he was receiving treatment in coma being fired down by his own brother and after he succumbed to that, as if there was no news in India excepting him, is a reminder to what extent they are capable of imposing their arbitrary preference on the general public.

Not a single TV channel has ever discussed on the extent of undisclosed properties of Mahajan.

During live telecasting of reactions of his younger brother it had transpired that his father was a man of modest income and he had not inherited any mentionable ancestral wealth. Then where from he could amass thousands of crores of Rupees, with so much immunity that his son could proudly assert that he spends 70 to 80 thousands of Rupees a day?

If the owners of the TV Channels could decide that Pramod Mahajan being a great leader of a great political party, they were duty bound to let people know every bit of his health condition, then they must also have known that on the same premise people have a right to know every details of the source of his huge wealth that ultimately made him a casualty.

As a politician Mahajan was a volunteer. Neither as a minister of short tenure nor as a parliamentarian his salary was big enough to be considered as the source of his massive wealth. So the wealth he accumulated must have come through other means which he never publicly professed.

The TV channels made him such a hero that people forgot that they have a right to be informed, if not by his family, by the central government, on who gave him the wealth and why and whether or not our motherland suffered any setback because of his shady deals.

Similar steps the TV channels took to overload public perception with sympathy for Pramods son when he was hospitalized senseless due to drinks and narcotic drugs.

A close watch on Indias mainstream TV Channels leads one to feel that their main aim is to brainwash the common citizens so that plutocracy can replace Indias democracy. In the transit, clever display of such of the programs takes place that communalists get projection as national heroes and religious revivalists as the nations conscience keepers.

It is note worthy that the Central Government has started looking into this aspect and is considering how to curb telecasting when national interest is in jeopardy.

It is equally note worthy that a group of ultra-right blog sites have been blocked by the service providers in response to intervention by the Central Government.

In the guise of freedom of expression freedom for anarchic expression cannot be countenanced. Therefore restriction is desirable.

But as a blogger myself, I am disturbed over the development.

If the class character of the bloggers whose sites have been blocked is compared with that of the people in power who have caused the blocking, both of them seem strikingly similar. I find no difference between Narendra Modi and Man Mohan Singh. If Modi wears a Tika on his forehead to show that he is a devout Hindu, Singh wears a Turban on his head to show that he is a devout Sikh. Are they different? Is there any difference between them in their readiness to stand with private industry and commerce? I find no difference. Therefore to me, blocking of blog sites of Modi genre by the Singh Government portends a greater danger to our democracy.

Blocking of sites like http://www.hinduunity.org or http://www.exposingtheleft.blogspot.com being pleasing to the communists, Singh will have the necessary political support to carve out a precedence of Governmental intervention in blogging. And once this precedence is established, any blog site at any point of time can be blocked.

Why Blog blocking?

Blog is a powerful medium of expression. Hence it is the latest weapon against capitalism. Agents of capitalism can use blog for their own nefarious purpose, no doubt. But thereby they can hoodwink the human community only for a small time, not for all times. Whatsoever be the volume of propaganda, capitalism cannot gain human heart. It has no philosophical strength. Therefore it cannot convince anybody in its support. So by publicizing its own version even through Blog, capitalism can never sustain itself. It thrives, never by media support, but by suppression of facts.

Print Media as well as Electronic Media in the Radio and TV sector were being used by Capitalism to suppress facts and opinions as a result of which collective wisdom of human community was never taking a concrete shape against it. But Blog has come as real challenge. The common man can express his mind unhindered through Blog. It is the instrument of real freedom of expression. And, hence it is the real threat to capitalism.

Hence Capitalism has picked up India where its high priest Man Mohan Singh is the Prime Minister, to conduct the first experimentation against Blog through blocking.

This being clear, action against ultra right TV channels and the blog sites working for capitalism, though desirable, the method and manner of blocking the blog sites cannot but be dangerous to democracy and progress.

SCAM ENGULFS HIGH TECH EDUCATION IN ORISSA: MERIT MARKERS SILENT!

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

A casual calculation leads to a scam exceeding Rs. 200 crore per annum in Orissa�s High-Tech education sector. But the merit markers are silent!

Only a few weeks ago, we have seen, in the name of merit, how a horrifying protest was raised against proposed reservation of seats for the socially disadvantaged in institutions of technical education.

The medicos, most of whom have been able to get admission into institutes of medical education simply because their parents have amassed enough money to meet the charges of coaching schools, were the ones, who whipped up an agitation that paralyzed the heath care sector of the nation for around a month, till at least the Supreme Court intervened.

Reservation was / is designed to do away with merit, they had argued.

But, we see, they refuse to see how merit is butchered by operators of high-tech education. We will concentrate only on the Orissa scenario as a matter of principle.

Let us start with the admission notice of Orissa Private Engineering College Association (OPECA) advertised in the media on 04 June 06.

It says, �Students who have just acquired a pass mark in 10+2 Science� are eligible to seek admission into B.Tech, MCA and Hotel management courses under its member institutions.

How many such seats are available to the third class students whose merit manifests at the high point of �just�.a pass mark� in 10+2 Science in Orissa?

Out of 12806 seats in Engineering in Orissa, 11916 seats belong to private Engineering Colleges and out of 816 seats in MCA and Hotel management, 664 belong to them. This means out of a total 13622 seats in B.Tech. MCA and HMCT in Orissa, 12580 seats belong to the members of OPECA. According to the notice noted supra, the private colleges �have decided to share 50% of the seats with the Government�. This means, 6290 seats in Colleges clubbed under OPECA are available to students having �acquired just a pass mark in 10+2 Science�.

And, who are these students, who, having �acquired just a pass mark in 10+2 Science, aspire to acquire degrees from high-tech institutions? They are they, whose parents have enough black money to pay.

So whosoever has sources of black money is considered meritorious enough to have a seat in high-tech institutions in Orissa with �just a pass mark� in 10+2 Science.

How much these institutes take to hold these fellows with �just a pass mark� as meritorious enough for high-tech education? Bargain begins from five lakhs of rupees.

In the Admission Rules it is stipulated that no college can demand extra money over and above the approved fees as per Industry Department Resolution No. 10823-I-TT-I-2005 Dated 03 June 2005. The approved fees are: Rs. 30,000/- for Engineering/Arch; Rs.36,000/- for MCA; Rs.40,000/- for Marine Engineering and Rs.45,000/- for MBA/ HMCT/ Pharmacy. But this resolution is a shield to cover up the black deal done clandestinely.

There is no punishment specified under the Rules against any contravention thereof. Rule 19 only says that if any of the instructions provided under the Rules is violated by any College a complain should be lodged to either the Vice-Chancellor of BPUT or Director of TE&T or the Joint Secretary of Industry Department. And the matter ends there. Neither any of these functionaries has any power or authority to take up any proceeding against any manager of any un-aided private college that violates the Rule nor any of them has any power to inspect any institute to spot any violation of the Rules.

The Rules begin with the declaration that �There shall be no State Quota or Management Quota and the Private un-aided Technical/ Professional Institutions are free to fill up their approved intake as per options exercised by them for 2006-2007�.

This is as per the Supreme Court decision in P.A. Inamdar Vrs State of Maharastra case.

So when the un-aided private techno colleges are admittedly free from Government control as per the Case Law made by the Apex Court judgment, entertainment of any complain against them by any of the above officials is bound to push the issue into the labyrinth of Laws. Action against the errant is therefore, far from reality.

But on the matrix of reality, when the Supreme Court has given them a carte blanche to �fill up their approved intakes as per option exercised by them�, why have they decided to share 50% of their seats with the Government? It is they who can give the answer. But in public perception it is a mutual sharing of the booty.

Though the Private un-aided Technical/ Professional Institutions are, according to the Supreme Court, free to fill up their �approved intake� as they like, none of them can afford a confrontation with the Government officials. They know they are safe as long as Government stands with them. Beginning from approval to affiliation, there are umpteen opportunities for official authorities to harass private college operators. So they, notwithstanding whatever the Supreme Court says, cannot say no to what the officials suggest. They know that they have not invested money in private un-aided colleges for social service. This is a business they operate for profit and the rate of fees as fixed by the Government noted supra cannot give them any profit matching their investment. So collection of extra money from students is the only way to fetch a profit. Unless officials cooperate, this cannot be possible. And for officials, allocating seats to aspirant students, who are not meritorious enough to get admission to Government Colleges, is a sure source of un-noticed income. Saswat Pattanayak, presently in USA, while reporting for the Asian age and later for the Hindustan Times, had exposed the scam resorted to by government officials in blocking seats in private colleges for such students. Corruption has crippled the State so much that notwithstanding the in-depth exposure, this evil game has never been looked into by officials with the terseness it warrants. Hence the game relentlessly goes on. The officials� eagerness to see that 50% of private seats rest under their control is a pointer to this. Had they not succumbed to officials� pressure, the private, that too un-aided, college operators would never have �decided to share� 50% of their seats with the Government, when the Supreme court has given them the clearance to freely fill up all the seats of their respective colleges as per their own option.

It is common knowledge that mafia excels in coining words to transmit an intension, which is in fact opposite to his own, so that under a cover of public praise he can proceed towards his prey. Such a cover has been provided for in the guise of 15% reservation for the NRI children. Outwardly it looks very nice. One sees in it our Government�s benevolent concern for our own people staying away from the motherland. But in reality, it is a gift given by government to private colleges. Indians residing in foreign countries normally do not send their children to study in private colleges in a place like Orissa. So the seats reserved for the NRIs remain vacant. These vacant seats are usually, off the records, auctioned away to undeserving aspirants, thereby, generating unnoticeable income of about seventy crore of Rupees.

So it is a massive mechanism of scam that has engulfed technical education in Orissa. And in this scam, beginning from private college operators to BPUT to the Directorate of Technical Education & Training to the Administrative Department to the Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister, all are involved. Otherwise how �just a pass mark in 10+2 science� has been declared as the high-point of merit for entry into engineering and other professional courses?

Grease the palms and get anything done in Orissa.

You know this, I also know.

But I would like to know, how the fellows, who shanghaied our medicals into anarchy a few weeks ago under the claim of protecting �merit� from the shadow of reservation of seats for the socially disadvantaged, react to this open butchering of merit.

Will any of them react?

Web Journalism in Orissa

mrinal-chattergee(Editor notes: Internet journalism in Orissa at several layers has been working as a developmental communication. It is gaining wide acceptance by most readers of traditional mass media, following the online potential to disseminate and organize news, as well as enabling the readers’ active participation. Orissa, with its highly promising information technology sector, has been on the forefront of online activism since quite a few years now.

The following article is authored by Associate Professor Mrinal Chatterjee, of the renowned Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal.
This is the first comprehensive, and most authoritative history of Orissa Web Journalism. OrissaMatters is delighted to showcase it for our valued readers.)

The Beginning:
History of Web journalism in India is just about 10 years old. The Hindu of Chennai is the first Indian newspaper that launched an Internet edition in the country, in 1995. By 1998 there were at least 48 newspapers in India that had launched their Internet editions, as observed by Sri Kiran Thakur of University of Pune in his research paper on Internet journalism in India. These constituted less than one percent of the total 4719 dailies that were registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India, as of December 1997. Language-wise break-up of Indian online newspapers was as follows: (In brackets are numbers of print dailies in the respective language being published as of December 1997) English 19 (338), Hindi 5 (2,118), Malayalam 5 (209), Gujrati 4 (99), Bengali 3 (93), Kannada 3 (279), Tamil 3 (341), Telugu 3 (126), Urdu 2 (495) and Marathi 1 (283). The researcher could not locate online editions of print dailies published in Assamese, Manipuri, Punjabi, Oriya, Sanskrit, Sindhi and other languages of India though there are print newspapers in these languages. All India Radio got connected to the Information super highway by introducing an experimental online information service on the internet on 2 May 1996.

Present status:
By 2006 almost all major dailies and most of the established news magazines and television channels of India have their net edition. Newspapers and magazines, however, are not the sole players in this game of online news delivery. They were joined by newsportals, news congregators and internet companies like MSN, Yahoo, Google. Many news-centric websites like cobrapost.com also surfaced.

In Orissa, Sambad started its net edition on 1 April 1999. The development in this sector has been very fast in Orissa. For example, a survey by IIMC students of IT facilities used in various newspapers in 1999 found Samaya did not even have an internet connection. Now it has its website. So has almost all the major newspapers and newsmagazines and television chanells of Orissa. Samaja even has a e-paper version. Besides, there are about a dozen Orissa-centric media sites with focus on Orissa related news. Orissa-centric news web sites are new phenomena. Subhash Chandra Pattnaik, who runs orissamatters.com is probably the first accredited Oriya web journalist. Similarly Prakash Rao was a print journalist before he became the editor of insightorissa.com, another Orissa centric news site. Sites like mahanadi.com has news content but the focus is different- culture and business.

Content:
Barring few websites, web journalism, so far the content is concerned has not yet evolved as a separate genre in Orissa – in its form, presentation, texture, tenor and full utilisation of the potential of this medium.

The Internet edition of Oriya Newspapers still basically use the same text and photographs that form the contents of the print dailies. These newspapers hardly have news and features prepared exclusively for the Internet edition. However, it is also not that the online editions contain every news, feature and photograph used in the corresponding parent print newspaper. About 60 per cent text is shovelled from the print to the web edition.

Most of the Orissa-centric websites are bilingual. They use English and Oriya script. But the interactive part is in English. Most of them try to disseminate need-based info, besides regular news. For example Samaja site (June06) has HSC results, Pragativadi and Dharitri site have train and aeroplane timings.

Editorial process of production:
Most of the newspapers in Orissa treat the online editions as part of their present publication business. Same scenario prevails at the national level too. Some mainstream newspapers like Times of India, however, is gradually separating its online paper as separate entity. But in general, it is still treated as a part of the print edition.

The editorial matter and advertisement copy from the respective departments reach the web section through LAN. The content for the Internet edition is selected here. The copy is edited once again on the computer screen and passed on to the systems department, which puts the contents onto the web pages. These are uploaded to the servers. And then, Internet edition is available to the millions of readers who access the newspaper on their computers. Most of the Oriya newspapers on Internet are uploaded at around midnight, that is, when the print edition is put to bed. Some of them are updated more frequently. But there are some, which do not update regularly.

Staff for the Internet Edition:
Most Oriya newspapers have a bare minimum staff for the web edition- one or two sub-editors. There is no additional staff for procuring advertisement for the net edition in most Oriya newspapers, unlike papers like The Times of India and The Hindu Online where some staffers work exclusively for the web department. Similarly, the staff of the systems department looks after the work for uploading the edition. Some newspapers have outsourced this task to private players. The Internet edition is thus run without incurring heavy investment in infrastructure and human resource. The publishers do not find it prohibitive to bring out these editions, even though they do not make profits. But things are changing.

Business:
With the growth of internet users and Oriya diaspora, Internet edition of Oriya newspapers and news-centric websites are becoming popular. Orissasambad.com, net edition of Sambad claims to get about a lakh hit per month.1 It is now attracting online advertisements.

CyberOrissa, an Orissa-centric general interest website has 5-6 staff. They make do with revenue collected through their other service-oriented websites like swayambar.com, a matrimonial site.2

Web Journalism developing a different flavour and culture :
Web Journalism is gradually developing a flavourdifferent from print journalism. This is primarily because of the nature of the medium. In a website, there are less of spatial and temporal restrictions as both latest and oldest information can exist together (latest updates and archives) 3 It is easier to collect, process and disseminate information on net. It is much cheaper to host and operate a news web site than say to publish a newspaper or to run a television channel. That is why more and more news-centric websites are coming into being. It provides more freedom- in every sense of the term to the journalists. The number of users of computer in India is also growing by leaps and bounds. The IDC India survey reveals that the Indian computer market grew by around 25%(PCs) in 2004-2005. According to this survey Indian IT market crossed US$25 billion mark in 2004 and it is predicted to grow at 21% for the next five years. 4

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) the internet user base will grow from 39 million in 2006 to 100 million in 2007. 5

Net connectivity is also improving. All these are helping in generating more news centric websites and more journalists opting for web journalism.

In fact in recent times most of the investigative stories have been initiated and actualized by web journalists (tehlka.com, cobrapost.com, etc.). Some of these websites are also forming strategic partnership with other established media organization for wider reach.

Another factor that has prompted journalists to work on web- is the ease of research on web. Since retrieving information is easy on web- many journalists are relying on internet for research. Most of government departments of Orissa are now making information available on net. All the 30 districts of Orissa have their websites providing vital informations. It is making journalists task of retrieving necesary information easy. It is a separate matter that many of the websites providing government information are not updated and maintained properly. The infrastructure is in place. Application is lacking. With more and more journalists demanding information through internet, the government machinery will be forced to provide that.

Web journalism is changing the way journalism is practised. There is, ofcourse, nothing new in this. It happens whenever a new technology arrives. Web journalism is gradually developing a different culture of immediacy. Since updates in a website can be effected easily and immediately, web journalism warrants that sense of immediacy- like say in a news agency or 24×7 television channel. But technology has provided the opportunity to web journalism to be even faster. A web journalist can update its site even when the news is unfolding. In journalism, if one can, one does.

Innovations:
Samaja has started its e-paper (samajaepaper.com) in 2006 with easy navigation. Browsing through an e-paper is a totally different experience from accessing an online or web edition of a publication. The difference between web edition of a paper and e-paper is : e-paper looks exactly like its printed edition. But web edition of newspapers looked different from their print edition in terms of pagination, placement of advertisements, classifieds, etc. When readers wanted to see their favourite newspaper exactly as it looks on computer- the need for e-paper arised. Infact e-paper takes us back to the start of the cycle in the early mid-90s. Then newspapers merely converted their print editions into web editions- with no value additions. However this time around there is a difference. The e-paper looks exactly like the print edition, but it has all the features of an online edition. 6 Thus the electronic newspaper is a mix of print looks and web tools such as search and digital clipping. Many newspapers like for example Hindustan Times and Times of India have both web edition and e-paper edition. Samaja has started this trend in Orissa.

Citizen Journalism:
Internet has provided opportunity to ordinary people to disseminate information and their views and comments to the entire world. Net-savvy people have taken to this in a big way. It has created what is now called citizen journalism. In Orissa some websites are encouraging people to send news and write their views and experience. Some journalists have opted for this kind of journalism for the freedom it provides. Subash Chandra Pattnaik has started a website : saubhasya.com. In its editorial titled torana(Gateway) he writes: …internet journalism has provided me the opportunity to express myself. There is no barrier between me and my readers. 7 Many net-savvy journalists are creating their own websites and blog sites. Many e-groups are being formed which exchange news and views within the group.

There are two differing views on this . One view considers this development as a boon as it is broadbasing and democratising journalism. The other view questions the credibility of citizen journalism. The argument is: without proper training and news-gathering experience, one tends to be biased; and that is the bane of citizen journalism.

Whatever may be the views- the present status is: citizen journalism is growing in Orissa.

A List:
Here is an indicative (by no means exhaustive) list of websites of Oriya newspaper and magazines and some Orissa news-centric web sites:

Newspapers:
Samaja: www.thesamaja.com
Sambad: www.orissasambad.com
Pragativadi www.pragativadi.com
Samaya www.orissasamaya.com
Dharitri www.orissakhabar.com

Magazines:
Kadambini www.kadambini.com

Orissa-news centric websites:
insightorissa.com
orissamatters.com
mahanadi.com
saubhasya.com
cyberorissa.com
***

Notes and References
1. Advertisement published in Sambad, Angul edition, 6 July 2006.
2. said Dayananda Ratho CEO of cyberorissa.com . in an interview over telephone. 20 June 2006
3. Web journalism. Retrieved December 26, 2005 from olimu.com/Web Journalism/WebJournalism.html
4. IDC.(2005, July 6)IDC Press. Retrieved December 26, 2005, from http://idcindia.com/Press/6%20july%202005.htm.
5. Retrieved 20 March 2006, from http://www.economic times
6. Sharma Dinesh C., Web Editions versus Electronic Newspaper, Journal of the Press Institute of India- Vidura, Vol.43, issue No.2, April-June 2006
7. Retrieved 4 July 2006 from soubhhsya.com.