STONE EATING: A REMARK EN ROUTE REALITY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

There is a remark on my write-up on stone eating in Sinapalli attached thereto. From the end of this remark, two sentences- “Addressing these issues is difficult. Simply crying that people are eating stones is easy”-were dropped at moderation stage as, to the administrator of this site, these were not commensurate with the gravity of the remark. With these two sentences revived, the remark goes as follows:

“There is no doubt that people living in KBK region of Orissa have serious challenges in overcoming poverty, unemployment and disease. Lot of work remains to be done in protection of common property resources,land improvement and skill development. But to say that people are eating stones is simply an affront to human dignity.Firstly, it is obviously a false statement. Secondly, it is a statement made with a view to gain cheap political mileage. Thirdly, it is an irresponsible stance, as nothing can replace the hardwork of trying to work with the communities, let them understand the theoretical opportunities of NREGA and the practical ways of trying to get the maximum of it etc., just to cite one of the opportunities available for the people. For example, many job card holders do not know that they need to apply a second time, after getting the job card. It is also a challenging task to see the correspondence between the NREGA labour side and the creation of assets side. What kind of assets are being created? Are they really the right ones, as decided by the community? Another important question is the stance that contractors are not allowed. In reality, somebody is required to get all the material for a public work together, stand there and get the men and women organised for work, pull up those who are not working properly and generally taking care of quality and speed of work. You have a choice of calling that person by any name you like, ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ or ‘work executant’ or ‘field worker’ or ‘supervisor’ or whatever. Whatever name you may give him, the person exists. NREGA pretends that such person does not exist. What is important is to see that such persons are transparently selected in open meeting of the community or gram sabha, give him reasonable margin of profit and ensure that he is held responsible in case of any faulty work. Right now in NREGA works, nobody is held accountable for quality and this person gets decided through non-transparent means by way of a simple device that officially you do not recognise that he exists! This is the same mindset which pretends that sharecroppers and absentee landlords do not exist. Rather than recognise the fact that you have people who cultivate the lands recorded in favour of somebody else, give each of this category some basic rights apportionment, the State pretends that by law all the tenancy in Orissa has been abolished. This has pushed the tenancy under the carpet. This has affected the profitability of agriculture as an occupation. This has also resulted in lots of lands lying fallow and valuable agricultural land not getting adequate resources for development. Neither the absentee landlord invests because he is not present all the time. Nor would the tenant invest in land, because anyway the land does not belong to him. In NREGA also, this is the same manner in which the State does not recognise the existence of contractors and thereby the quality of work is hampered and the assets are not generated worth the money that is spent. Addressing these issues is difficult. Simply crying that people are eating stones is easy”.

It is a note worthy remark. It reflects serious application of mind to the issue. Looking as if coming from an administration insider (the commentator having used obviously a pseudonym like ‘Observer’), it confirms that the people of the area of stone eating, undoubtedly, “have serious challenges in overcoming poverty, unemployment and disease” and in the area, through NREGA, “assets are not generated worth the money that is spent”.

But for this confirmed malady, the only factor located as responsible is lack of open presence of contractors. Notwithstanding ban on execution of works under NREGA through contractors, Observer says, the works are being executed through them, who exist despite the “pretence” that they do not exist.

Instead of calling a person a contractor, “You have a choice of calling that person by any name you like, ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ or ‘work executant’ or ‘field worker’ or ‘supervisor’ or whatever. Whatever name you may give him, the person exists” and, Observer reveals, “this person gets decided through non-transparent means by way of a simple device that officially you do not recognise that he exists!”

So the remark is en route reality. The reality is that people are perishing under “poverty, unemployment and disease” and the works done under NREGA are not “worth the money that is spent” and this is so, because, in spite of ban on execution of works through contractors they are engaged “through non-transparent means”.

En route this reality, Observer says, even though contractors are engaged, as because the “NREGA pretends that such person does not exist”, responsibility for deficient execution of works is not being fixed as work orders are allocated clandestinely, in absence of legal authority. To quote him, “Right now in NREGA works, nobody is held accountable for quality”.

This is a very helpful observation to understand the ailments that the State administration is downed with.

NREGA is an Act that gives guarantee of employment to rural workers. Contractor is a person that operates for his personal profit and evidences are rampant that the engineers and administrative officers, in most of the cases, act as commission agents of contractors and the nexus they build up leads to extension of time and expansion of estimates to the detriment of public exchequer.

I have cited the survey report of non-official CEFS to show how Muster Rolls are manipulated to misappropriate the money provided for ensuring food security in the region comprising the stone eating area of Sinapalli. Now I think, the observations of the highest official authority on audit, the CAG, needs be referred to. This may help in understanding as to why contractors are banned under NREGA.

The CAG has umpteen times shown that contractor-centric corruption spanning from massive projects to tiny works has severely affected both planning and exchequer of the State. Situational relevance justifies CAG observations on the latter ones.

Open the report on civil audit of 2005-06. The CAG notes, “Avoidable extra cost, unfruitful expenditure and undue benefit to contractors amounted to Rs 90.11 crore in Rural Development (Rs 28.99 crore), Works (Rs 6.41 crore), Water Resources (Rs 48.08 crore), School and Mass Education (Rs 1.54 crore), Higher Education (Rs 1.30 crore), Housing and Urban Development (Rs 1.14 crore), Cooperation (Rs 2.22 crore) and Panchayati Raj (Rs 43 lakh) Departments.

“There were instances of blockage of funds and idle investments of Rs 13.84 crore in Women and Child Development (Rs 4.68 crore), Cooperation (Rs 2.86 crore), Industries (Rs 1.79 crore), Tourism (Rs 1.26 crore), Rural Development (Rs 1.07 crore), Culture (Rs 1.35 crore) and Information and Public Relations (Rs 83 lakh) Departments. Besides, there was irregular expenditure of Rs 4.64 crore in Water Resources (Rs 2.69 crore), Revenue (Rs 0.99 crore) and Higher Education (Rs 0.96 crore) Departments”. These are only samples of how the contractors highjack the exchequer as well as the projects.

The Executive in Orissa is subservient to contractors. So, deficient and defaulting contractors are seldom penalized. At Paragraph 4.4.1 of the report noted supra, the CAG says, “failure to penalise a defaulting contractor by the Executive Engineer (EE), OECF Division No. I, Bada jhara and non-initiation of suitable action to recover the outstanding dues led to loss and non-recovery of Rs 34.44 crore.

Go to any other year, similar scenarios would snare attention. As for example, in auditing 2004-05 transactions, the CAG says, “Avoidable extra cost, unfruitful expenditure and undue benefit to contractor amounted to Rs 23.09 crore in Water Resources (Rs 14.61 crore), Works (Rs.8.22 crore) and Health Family Welfare Departments (Rs 26 lakh). There were instances of blockage of funds and idle investments of Rs 6.22 crore in Home (Rs 3 crore), Water Resources (Rs 1.61 crore), Agriculture (Rs.78 lakh) and Higher Education Departments (Rs 83 lakh) besides irregular expenditure of Rs 6.47 crore in Finance, Information Technology and Panchayati Raj Departments”.

In respect to projects linked to poverty amelioration, the scenario is worse. At Paragraphs 4.3.1 and 4.3.2 (2005-06), the CAG has reported, “Item rate of Water Bound Macadam (WBM) under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in the Rural Development Department was computed incorrectly resulting in an undue benefit of Rs 16.07 crore to contractors. Besides, there was excess payment of Rs 11.27 crore to the contractors due to wrong computation of item rate of Granular Sub Base (GSB). Even “wrong computation of item rates of Cement concrete works, evasion of ST and other unwarranted favours led to undue benefit of Rs.20.88 crore to contractors”.

What was the earlier finding?

See, how the CAG has recorded it in its report of 2004-05. I quote:

“Govt. of India (GoI) launched the Food for Work Programme during 2002 with a view to
augmenting food security through wage employment. The scheme provided for supply of 5 kg of rice per day at subsidized rate of Rs.5.65 per kg and payment of balance wages in cash. To ensure that the benefit of subsidy reached the labourer and as a safe guard against the sale of rice at higher rate in the market, the scheme stipulated that rice should be supplied to the
labourers at the work site along with cash component on muster rolls in presence of the local representatives.

“However, 8 EEs issued 4057 tonnes of rice to contractors after completion of works executed through 1092 agreements between 2001-02 and 2004-05. The delays ranged between 7 days and 18 months. Since distribution of rice to daily wage workers after completion of the works was not practicable, the subsidy of Rs.2.06 crore provided by GoI was not passed on to the labourers and instead led to undue benefit to the contractors”.

While providing benefits to contractors, as that helps the Executive sharing the booty, the Food for Work scheme is so mismanaged that an Assistant Engineer of Minor Irrigation Division, Sambalpur has “misappropriated” 1345 MT of subsidized rice “valuing Rs.1.68 crores received under Food for Work Programme”, the CAG has exposed at Paragraph 4.1.1 of its Report for 2005-2006.

As stressed supra, these are mere samples. The corruption continuing by the contractor- executive nexus is unfathomable.

Against this backdrop, there is no doubt that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme would be totally defeated if contractors are accommodated. Hence under NREGA engagement of contractors was blatantly banned. The entire money provided under the scheme is to be spent on guaranteed employment.

But as transpires from the remark of Obeserver, this scheme has been sabotaged in Orissa and job-orders are being given to contractors while pretending that they do not exist.

This pretension being official, the NREGS funds are also looted. My earlier report incorporating the survey findings of CEFS has thrown light on that. According to Observer, this has to happen as the work orders are given “through non-transparent means”. It is a reality. In reality, it is indicative of how the government has failed.

Observer has rightly observed, “Many job card holders do not know that they need to apply a second time, after getting the job card”. Making people know of this cannot be expected of a job-contractor. It is the work of the government machinery.

Observer is right in saying, “somebody is required to get all the material for a public work together, stand there and get the men and women organised for work, pull up those who are not working properly and generally taking care of quality and speed of work”. But he says, this “somebody” should be a contractor under any attire, “transparently selected” to do the job with “reasonable margin of profit” and answerability.

Instances have been cited supra from CAG reports and, in these pages, elsewhere, light is thrown on how contractors enjoy immunity in Orissa and how administration has failed in Orissa to penalize erring and willfully irresponsible contractors. So, call the contractor in any style (“‘Mahatma Gandhi’ or ‘work executant’ or ‘field worker’ or ‘supervisor’ or whatever” suggests Observer), in Naveenraj, they shall, in every matter of corruption, continue enjoying immunity.

And this administrative collaboration with contractor-centric corruption has defeated Food for Work program, has defeated Gramin Rojgar Yojana etc as show above and as open engagement of contractors has been punishably banned under the NREGA, the officials, who earn salary for executing official programs, have hijacked wage-funds under this scheme to their respective pockets, compelling people to thrive on stones under stark starvation.

My esteemed friend, whose remark so far is highly commensurate with reality, has dismissed the stone-eating phenomenon as “simply an affront to human dignity”. According to him, “firstly, it is obviously a false statement. Secondly, it is a statement made with a view to gain cheap political mileage. Thirdly, it is an irresponsible stance, as nothing can replace the hardwork of trying to work with the communities, let them understand the theoretical opportunities of NREGA and the practical ways of trying to get the maximum of it etc.”. I think the falsity of the ‘third’ observation needs no proof as in the write up that has generated this debate the researchers of CEFS have been adequately quoted in showing how the “Scheme has become less of Employment Guarantee Scheme for the hungry and poor villagers and more of a money-spinning machine and Income Guarantee Scheme for Orissa’s officials” and how “job cards have been kept in the homes of VLWs against the will of cardholders”. I have further quoted there the report of CEFS that says, “Most of the VLWs are inaccessible to villagers because they stay in towns located 50-60 kms away from Panchayats. They come once or twice a month in the Panchayat office. A poor Adivasi has to walk on foot and cover this long distance just to meet VLW. Even after walking this long distance, poor Adivasi is not sure whether he would be able to meet VLW”. Had this reality been contradicted with convincing proofs, the ‘third’ observation of Observer could have been really helpful. Absence of any proof in support of “hardwork of trying to work with the communities, let them understand the theoretical opportunities of NREGA and the practical ways of trying to get the maximum of it etc.”, makes the observation that the “stance” of the write up is “irresponsible” deserves to be dismissed. The second observation, I am afraid, is ambiguous besides being irrelevant. I am unable to see a phenomenon like “cheap political mileage” anywhere in the report that was transmitted/televised or in the write up that I authored and published in this site or in saubhasyablog under my other site http://www.saubhasya.com. Had Observer substantiated this observation, it could have merited attention. But sadly it is not substantiated. Now the first observation, i.e. “it is obviously a false statement”. So far, only two statements have been acted upon in context of stone eating. One is of Baru Singh Pahadia who stated before camera that he eats stone to overcome hunger and the other is of Dasamati Pahadia who allegedly gave a statement before a team of officers headed by DWO of Nuapada at 9 PM of 25.5.2007 to the effect that Khuturam Sunani and his companion journalist instigated people to eat stone and took pictures thereof when some of the villagers were eating the stones. If the second statement is false I have nothing to say; because I have analyzed that Dasamati’s statement of confession was false and fabricated. If the first one were false, it would have been proper to show how it is false.

Khaturam Sunani, who spotted the alarming event, has affirmed that stone eating by people of Nangalghat is true. In a statement issued on 20.6.2007 from Komana of Nuapada he has further stated that not only in Nangalghat, but also in habitations nearby, people of Pahadia tribe have been thriving by stone eating since long. He has stated that he has investigated into this matter and has accumulated firsthand evidences in support of this information. Sunani is a journalist of the concerned area and has first hand knowledge over the issue. Unless otherwise proved, the truth he has discovered cannot be said to be false simply because that exposes misrule.

When the news is reliable that people are eating stone to overcome hunger, it cannot be an affront to human dignity. It would be, if we, as a civilized people, fail to stand with Sunani in his fight against false charges of sedition framed against him by a corrupt, inefficient and anti-people administrative set-up because he has found out the truth of stone eating in Sinapalli.

En route reality, any proof propelled remark on my write-ups would be most welcome. I will be really happy if the stone eating news could be proved to be false.

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STOP SQUANDERING AWAY MINES, TREASURY BENCHES WARN THE GOVT.

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Even as the Minister-in-charge, responding to an adjournment notice, rejected on June 25 the Opposition demand for an inquiry by a House committee into dubious deals in mining lease, heavyweights in the treasury benches warned the State Government that unless it changes its style of functioning, it’s support to industries may aptly be interpreted as squandering away the mining wealth mother nature has given to Orissa.

Stressing on the instance of Jindal’s procurement of around 2000 acres spread of mines through purchase from a Kolkata based company, reprimands rolled out from the treasury side over irregular allocation of the mines to the seller without assessment of his mining ability and industrial requirements.

In these pages it was earlier shown that the State Government has not yet framed a Mining Policy in order to remain unanswerable in matters of arbitrary allocation of mines.

Treasury Bench heavyweights endorsing their calling attention notice wondered if the Government has ever thought it prudent to be guided by a Mining Policy and also showed how in absence of a Policy it has granted 5000 Acres of land where 2000 Acres could have been sufficient to meet the requirement. Such squandering away of mineral and natural wealth would be detrimental to interests of Orissa, they warned.

Despite this they disagreed with the Opposition demand for a House Committee probe. The probe may be conducted by any other credible agency, they pleaded.

The Minister-in-charge rejected the probe demanded by both the Opposition and the Treasury benches. There is no necessity of any special probe, he emphasized.

However, the Minister perhaps inadvertently, revealed a chilling reality. That is, the Government’s own organization IPICOL was found not reliable in handling such probe or scrutiny in mining matters.

MAYAWATI: A LIVING REPLICA OF OUR NATION’S UGLY FACE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister of U.P. Ms. Mayawati has informed that she has accumulated wealth to the tune of Rs.52 crores in course of her political career.

Daughter of a low paid employee, Mayawati had started her earning as a teacher in a Delhi Administration School. But politics provided her with the money, which a School-teacher, in a span of a thousand births anywhere in India, could never have accumulated.

If she is honest in her affidavit filed along with her nomination papers before the Returning Officer seeking a berth in the Upper Chamber of UP Assembly, the amount of Cash in her hand at the moment is Rs.50.27 lakhs. Her cash deposits in banks, financial institutions and non-banking financial companies amount to Rs.12.88 lakhs. Jewellery? See, she has 380.17-carat diamonds worth Rs.49.75 lakhs, gold and studded jewellery worth Rs.50.87 lakhs. The new aristocratic aura she believes she has, has made her procure even a 18.5kg silver dinner set costing Rs1.12 lakhs. She has, as she has revealed, assets that comprise murals worth Rs.15 lakhs.

Over and above these movables, she has commercial and residential establishments under her ownership in New Delhi and Lucknow worth several crores of Rupees. According to her own version, she owns two commercial establishments in Connaught Place, New Delhi, priced at Rs. 2.05 crores and Rs.1.27 crores and another commercial establishment at Okhla which is priced at Rs.15.50 crores. Her residential properties comprise one mansion at Nehru Road in the Cantonment of Lucknow and another at Sardar Patel Marg in Delhi, the cost of which, according to her, is Rs.97.42 lakhs and Rs.18.02 crores respectively.

Are you surprised?

Why should you be? Becoming surprised would be surprising.

If you know your Motherland is being looted and if in your opinion Vajpayee was a perfect Prime Minister and Man Mohan Singh is, why should you be surprised if Mayawati has fetched this massive fortune out of politics?

I am not surprised. The present India is a swamp where crabs like Mayawati have their congenial environment to possess anything that they can grab.

India has been transformed to a Plutocracy and in a Plutocracy, by using facilities of enfranchisement the rich or the agents of the rich grab power under any guise and work for the rich on commission basis. Mayawati is just a sample.

Mayabati is just a sample of how the politico-bureaucratic nexus serving the Masters in private industries have ruined our nation.

When a man like Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, who was more conspicuous by his support to commission agents as in Fernandez case and by denuding the country of her industrial assets while crowning this anti-national mechanism as Ministry of disinvestments, we as a nation did not stop him.

Now a man like Dr. Man Mohan Singh, who, as Finance minister, had sabotaged our Constitution by subjecting India to GATT behind back of the people, as it was impossible to terminate our “solemn” resolution enshrined in its Preamble to “constitute” Sovereign India “into a SOCIALIST Secular Democratic Republic”, is being tolerated by all of us as the Prime Minister! And, look at the irony, the Communists, ethically expected to remain alert sentinels of socialism, are his allies!

What more proof we need to know that we are no more a democracy; but a plutocracy?

And, in a plutocracy, who other than Mayawati and her likes, irrespective of affiliations, can fetch profit sans any industry, out of party politics?

After disclosure of her assets by herself, the hypocrites in her opposite camps and in different media organizations have started raising their eyebrows to the reality of vandalism that has given birth to the new property queen and have most meretriciously started shedding crocodile tears over India’s discernible fall in to the state of no-probity.

This is a farce. Instead of indulging in this farce, instead of lamenting that the country is plundered, it is time to exterminate the political climate that has so far suited the scoundrels.

If we cannot rise against plutocracy, we have no right to bother about how and who plunders the Country.

Mayawati is nothing but a living replica of our nation’s ugly face.

DAY OF MOU WITH POSCO IS OBSERVED AS THE DAY OF ENDANGERING FREEDOM

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

People of Orissa have observed June 22, the day of signing of Memoranda of Understanding with POSCO by the State Government, as the day of endangering freedom and have resolved to sharpen their fight against the mischief.

Thousands of inhabitants of Kujang, where POSCO is playing havoc with the lives of the people staged a mass demonstration of protest in front of the State Pollution Control Board at Bhubaneswar on Fri day and branded the SPCB as an anti-people wing of administration that runs under commission agents of polluting industries in blatant disregard to the Environment and Pollution Laws.

Environmental clearance to POSCO project is worst assault on Orissa’s eco-system perpetrated by the people who are supposed to be the official sentinels of environment, they charged. What other than bribe could have corrupted them to this necked extent? This question reverberates even till now.

Why should the SPCB and its high boss in the State Secretariat shy at this question and fail to answer? Dose silence help?

How can Naveen Patnaik and his acolytes say that they have not been purchased by POSCO if they fail to convince the people otherwise?

Satyrs procure prostitutes to fuck for pleasure; imperialists are selectively procuring our political leaders and bureaucrats to fuck for treasure.

Whosoever loves his Motherland, loves his fellow citizens, loves freedom of India, must cogitate the question raised by the people of Kujang.

Our freedom is really imperiled, as they have shown. They have correctly diagnosed that the day MoU was signed with POSCO was the day our freedom was dragged into danger.

Decide your own course of action, dear countrymen.

STONE EATING: IN CEFS STUDY ORISSA IS WORSE THAN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Subhas Chadra Pattanayak

Orissa stands face to face with Sahara on Latitude 20� in the northern hemisphere of the Globe. CEFS, esteemed body of socio-economic researchers, has held that its government has already transformed it to �Sub-Sahara of India�.

We will come to that.

When stone eating by people of Sinapalli Block in the District of Nuapada belonging to KBK region under stark starvation were shown by a TV channel at 7 P. M. of 31. 5. 2007 and the State Assembly commenced next day on 1. 6.2007 to repeated adjournments over the issue, the State Government through its Revenue Minister had succeeding in ending the impasse at 5 P.M. by stating in the House that the telecasted news was baseless because the people were never in starvation as on field inspection the District Welfare Officer has seen that �job cards have been issued to all the families, NREGA works are going on regularly� and there is enough food materials in every household.

Elsewhere I have shown how records were prepared overnight to show that the telecasted information was wrong. But now the Center for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) has come out with a survey report that shows how the assertion of the Minister in the Assembly was wrong.

Founded by a combine of eminent scholars, writers, environmentalists, scientists and activists like Prof. Ashis Nandy, Dr. Kamla Chowdhry, Dr. Pradipto Roy, Mr. Anupam Mishra, Prof. P. S. Ramakrishnan, Dr. T. N. Khoshoo, Mr. P.N.Singh and Mr. Parshuram Ray in 2001 with the broad objective of knowledge-based activism on the issues of poverty, hunger, food security, sustainable livelihoods, sustainable development and ecological security, CEFS is well known for research, advocacy and campaign on these issues. Its �Research Study on Political Economy of Hunger in Tribal Areas of India� is so authentic and referable that no plan for the Tribes can succeed unless this evaluation is kept in mind.

This esteemed organization has come out with the observation that the �Current level of hunger, poverty and deprivation in Orissa�s KBK areas is as deep, demeaning and dehumanizing as ever despite the so- called successful implementation of NREGS with the highest allocation of funds anywhere in the country�.

Observing that this �Scheme has become less of Employment Guarantee Scheme for the hungry and poor villagers and more of a money-spinning machine and Income Guarantee Scheme for Orissa�s officials�, the CEFS has revealed, �out of 100 sample villages covered for this survey, 18 villages have not received any job card , 37 villages have not received any job under OREGS even after 16 months of launch of the scheme, 11 villages have received neither job cards nor any job, Job cards of 21 villages are lying with Village Level Workers and Job cards of 2 villages are lying with Junior Engineers , in 25 villages only half, one third or partial payments have been made�

Narrating how the researchers of CEFS received a call from the Personal Secretary of the Secretary to Government in the Panchayati Raj Department asking them as to whether they had obtained permission of the District Collector or any higher authority for meeting the concerned BDO, the Report says, �When we asked as to why do we need District Collector�s permission, he told us as how dare we go to BDO�s office without District Collector�s permission�. The researchers were shocked. The report narrates how they were asked �in stern voice to return back from the Block office and not to visit any village in the Block�.

Penning down this paining experience they were subjected to in Nandapur Block, the researchers note, �we also got three telephone calls from APD (DRDA-Koraput) asking us not to visit any village of Nandpur block�.

Shocked to the core, they had besought intervention from the offices of District Collector(Koraput), Chief Secretary and Chief Minister of Orissa. �Despite all these efforts�, the researchers say, �we did not succeed in seeing the muster rolls. This whole experience in Nandapur block was highly demeaning and disgusting and we wonder whether there is a big scam that was sought to be covered up�.

Acting against all such odds, the researchers from CEFS went into the midst of the people. �In 13 villages�, they inform, �we found scandalous difference in the number of workdays recorded in the job cards and the number of actual workdays physically verified with the workers/labourers in these villages. There are 3 villages where no payments have been made even after 4-8 months of the work done. We found 6 villages in Kashipur block of Rayagada district where OREGS work is being done without any job cards being issued to the villagers�.

On keen observation the researchers found that the �Panchayati Raj Institutions have been completely sidelined and marginalized in the implementation of OREGS. Sarpanches are asked by VLWs to sign on blank cheques and VLWs decide everything. In most of the Panchayats, VLWs do not share single information about the OREGS work in the Panchayat with any of the elected representatives of Gram Panchayat�.

Holding it as �a mockery of grassroots democracy�, the researchers have noted, �Muster Rolls are more secret a document in Orissa than the Nuclear secrets of the country. We could not meet a single person in these 100 villages who has ever seen muster rolls of the OREGS work in his village. Muster Rolls are always kept in the house of VLWs and villagers who work in OREGS projects are made to sign on blank muster rolls�.

Noting that the �way Orissa Government is implementing OREGS, this scheme seems to be a cruel joke on hungry and poor Adivasis and Dalits�, the researchers have thrown light on 21 sample villages that they studied. Accordingly, �job cards have been kept in the homes of VLWs against the will of cardholders. Most of the VLWs are inaccessible to villagers because they stay in towns located 50-60 kms away from Panchayats. They come once or twice a month in the Panchayat office. A poor Adivasi has to walk on foot and cover this long distance just to meet VLW. Even after walking this long distance, poor Adivasi is not sure whether he would be able to meet VLW�.

As a result, they have noted, �hunger and abject poverty is wide spread in all the 100 villages of KBK region we visited. Our interactions and interviews with villagers suggest that about 99% of the Adivasis and Dalits living in KBK villages are suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition. Large numbers of children in these villages are suffering from severe malnutrition. Hunger and abject poverty is so apparent and writ large on the hollowed cheeks, sunken eyes, distended bellies of children, skeleton figures, listlessness and despair in their looks�, that the scenario looks �worse than Sub-Saharan Africa�.

The researchers unambiguously say that their �preliminary analysis of field survey has revealed that more than 80-90% of the money spent in Orissa Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme(OREGS) has been directly pocketed by officials responsible for executing this scheme. Only leakages and crumbs have reached the rural poor of Orissa. This scheme has become less of Employment Guarantee Scheme for the hungry and poor villagers and more of a money-spinning machine and Income Guarantee Scheme for Orissa�s officials.

The �brazenness and callousness of Orissa�s officials involved in the implementation of this scheme is outrageous and unparallel anywhere in India�, says CEFS while emphasizing that if social audit as provided for under the NREGS is conducted in all the Panchayats where this Scheme is shown as implemented, �more than 95% of the officials and bureaucrats involved in the implementation of this Scheme will loose their jobs and will go behind the bars immediately�.

When the Orissa Assembly resumes it session after the recess and takes up the House Committee report on stone eating in Sinapalli Block, will any of the Members show the courage to test that matter on the matrix of this information?

The CEFS has stressed and we agree that contravention of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) passed by Indian Parliament should be construed as contempt of Parliament.

And, so, it would be proper for the Members of Orissa Assembly, while discussing the House Committee report as well as the Budget, to see that the State does not continue committing contempt of parliament and all of the functionaries beginning from the present Chief Secretary, who was the Chief of KBK administration for the longest period, to the VLWs, who manipulate Muster Rolls to the defeat of NREGA, are subjected to social audit and are mercilessly booked.

I will wait and watch and report.

STARVATION: GOVERNMENT TRIES TO HUSH UP STONE EATING

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It cannot be expected of any Government to steer the State into a firmament where there can never be any error in administration. Whereas dictatorship or autocracy never admits errors, because Satan never errs, in a democracy error is noted, confessed and rectified.

So it is bad for democracy when an elected government tries to hush up its errors.

This hushing up exercise is going on in Sinapalli of Nuapada district where under stark starvation peoples have been reportedly eating stones for survival.

I have earlier shown how the State Government through its Revenue Minister has tried to hoodwink the Legislative Assembly in this matter.

Now as I go through the records, a picture emerges that depicts how the State Government has tried to hush it up.

Let me share it with you.

The Revenue Minister has told the House that on 25.5.2007, the District Welfare Officer (DWO) heading a team/committee had enquired into the veracity of the stone-eating report telecasted by OTV and found it baseless. The Minister’s statement is basically wrong because the OTV had telecasted the report never before 25.5.2007, but only on 31.5.2007 at 7 PM in the evening. When the news was telecasted in the evening of 31.5.2007, how could the enquiry be conducted on its veracity on 25.5.2007, I had wondered.

I personally contacted the two journalists against whom penal prosecution has started under charges of sedition for having recorded the appalling picture and for facilitating it’s telecasting.

They told me that a report of the house-to-house survey conducted by two NGOs – Sajag and Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan – had shown, “unemployment problem along with the condition of starvation and semi-starvation among the Kamar families is growing day by day”.

This had led them to keep a watch on Nangalghat in Sinapalli Block, as it is a hamlet of Kamar caste people, who are devoid of basic amenities.

And in course of time, information reached them that under stark starvation the helpless ones in that hamlet are eating limestone locally known as jhikiri.

Initially unable to believe, they reached Nangalghat on 25.5.2007 and found that the starved people were really eating the stones. They took video recording of one Baru Singh Pahadia while eating stone and sent the same to their respective medias including OTV for further action.

The editorial desk of OTV set the transcription to grid for 31.5.2007 under its Pratidin tab; but as usually happen amongst rural enthusiasts who work in mass media sans experience to keep their desptaches under corks till publication, the news of the video recording jumped the walls of the journalists’ room in Nuapada and reached the District Collector who, alarmed by the possible embarrassment it may cause to the Government, specifically when the State Assembly was scheduled to start on 1.6.2007, notified the Revenue Minister in a hope that OTV being a media outfit of ruling coalition MP Baijayant Panda, the telecasting could be stopped.

The Minister belongs as he to BJP –a party in alliance with BJD for power but its adversary in reality- was reluctant to approach Panda.

He asked the Collector to manage the scenario so that, if confronted, the government can reject the news. This made the Collector ask the DWO to rush to the spot and build up such evidences that if the video is telecasted, that can be refuted.

DWO’s nasty tricks

The DWO. reached Nangalghat in the night with the BDO and the CDPO of Sinapalli Block as well as local Sarpanch. By that time, as usual in rural villages sans electricity and surrounded by jungle, the inhabitants of the hamlet were deeply asleep. Some of them were force-awaken. And their thumb impressions were collected on a sheet of paper titled as “Swikrutinama” meaning Confession-sheet. I am going to quote it by translating from Oriya.

You can see the original in pdf format.

It is noted in this sheet that the DWO, on arrival at 9 PM in the night of 25.5.2007 asked if people were eating stones. In response to this query, Dasamati Paharia said, “Khuturam Sunani of Nizgaon and Meghanad Kharsel of Badibahal, coming to our village, had declared that if Khalimati / Rengatapathar (known also as Jhikiri, a sort of limestone) is eaten, backache would disappear. As, believing them, people started eating the stones, they took photos thereof and said that they should show the stones to government officers if they come and relay to them what they have said too”. To this Radhika Paharia agreed. If the question was, “Are the people eating stones?” why, instead of the people saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, this Dasamati Paharia advances the so-called confession in the quoted form? It is because Dasamati was formerly the President of a water-shade project suspected to have committed some irregularities during his tenure and therefore was vulnerable to official pressure. So Dasamati’s so-called confession was uncalled for if it was really voluntarily advanced by himself or it was manufactured as the DWO desired.

Study the photocopy of the sheet. You will see, the last sentence, which says, “all the people gathered at Chandili agreed and signed”, was inserted after the words “villagers of Nangalghat” were written at the end of the so-called statement of confession.

It is worth noting that the writer of the statement of confession has not signed the document. No body knows who wrote it. But from the words used and the mistakes occurred in writing the words clearly indicate that some body has written the statement as per dictation of somebody else. As for example, see the first word of the second paragraph. It should have been “Tara pratyuttarare” meaning ‘in response to that’. But it is written as “Tara pratyadattare”! There is no such word like pratyadattare in Oriya.

One can safely infer that the DWO had dictated the statement and some of his staff had taken down the dictation. Both Dasamati and Radhika being absolute illiterates, their finger prints were taken thereon along with the finger prints of others, without them understanding what had been written on the paper.

So, the so-called statement of confession is a manufactured document.

S.P. was used

Enclosing this manufactured document, the DWO wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Police of Nuapada District clearly at the behest of the Collector on 28.5.2007 wherein events not mentioned in the so-called statement of confession were deliberately depicted to raise charges of sedition against the two journalists.

Read the letter.

At Para 3 the Journalists are shown as having visited Nangalghat on 23.5.2007 where as there is no mention of this date in the statement of confession.

It is noted that the two journalists “persuaded some people to eat a certain type of stone saying that the stone has medicinal value, can cure diseases like backaches, stomach pain etc. and supplied them the stone to eat. They also demonstrated how to eat the same stone. x x x x x They also told them that if any government officer such as B.D.O. comes and asks on this matter they should show them the basket full stones as evidence of eating. They also promised them that they would get government benefit out of it”. Now compare it with the statement of confession. If at all that statement carry any credibility, nowhere therein is any mention of “stomach pain”, any mention of “supply of the stone to the people by the journalists”, any mention of “basket full of stones”, any mention of the journalists promising that the people “would get government benefit out of it”.

Proceed further.

The letter says that the people “confessed in writing that they staged this drama by the instruction, persuasion and direction of the said reporters”. In the so-called statement of confession that the DWO has enclosed in support of his allegation, there is no mention of the people having said this. Neither is there the word “drama” nor the Oriya of the words “instruction, persuasion and direction”.

So, these expressions are concocted by the DWO, who has tried to develop charges of sedition against the journalists by saying the S.P. that the acts of the two journalists were meant for “misguiding the innocent and illiterate people of the locality to defame the government machinery”. It is surprising that the S.P. allowed himself to be used to order the field station to register cases against the journalists under charges of sedition mindlessly falling in the DWO’s trap and equating sedition with finding fault with the administration.

Why the D.W.O. played the nasty trick?

Sri Rasmi Ranjan Putel, a senior student of Bolangir belonging to village Bangomunda, provides us with he answer.

Embarrassed severely by the negative publicity Orissa fetched by spread of the news of stone eating by a section of the citizenry, he wanted to know the truth through a person-to-person survey in the hamlet of Nangalghat.

After the survey, he has reported, “ There are 20 families of Paharia/Kamar caste in the hamlet of Nangalghat. Even though 60 years have elapsed since independence, there is no provision of drinking water as a result of which the people of this hamlet depend on the stream nearby to sustain their lives. There is no school, not even an Anganwadi center. Till date, none of this hamlet has entered into a school, even though, at the moment, there are 28 children of school going age. Not a single person of Nangalghat has been given old-age pension. There are widows in the hamlet but none of them has been favored with widow-pension. All of the inhabitants reside in inhabitable cottages; but none of them has been provided with any house under Indira Awas Yojana, provided by the Union Government for the homeless poor the allotment of which rests with the Provincial administration. None of them has ever been given a government loan to help himself out of poverty. None of them has any agricultural or homestead land in his/her name. They are so poor that none of them has been able to dig out a well or a tank. There is no well or tank in the hamlet from government side. People depend on the nearby stream called Udanti and when flood comes in this stream, they get cut off from out side, even from surrounding jungles, completely for about four months and bereft totally of the sources of livelihood, they thrive on plant roots and a specific type of stone that they make soft by putting in water overnight. Resigned to fate, they have adopted stone eating since long, Putel has reported, while noting that till the two journalists took note of the pathetic condition of the people, no official functionary from V.L.W to B.D.O. to D.W.O. to Collector to Minister had ever visited the hamlet.

The DWO being the officer in charge of welfare, this severe situation warrants that he be held responsible for the helplessness the inhabitants have been subjected to. It is clear that to avoid fixation of responsibility, he has played this nasty trick, of course, under guidance of the Collector.

Foul role of the Collector

As the controlling officer of the district, the Collector has possibly played the foul role. Otherwise the shenanigans marked in this hamlet could not have been possible.

Putel’s first hand report from the spot says, “since 29.5.2007, there is unending rush of officials to Nangalghat. Ever since 25.5.2007, officers and their cohort politicians of local branches of ruling parties went on pressurizing people to deny stone eating, but in vain. The B.D.O. of Sinapali, the Tahsildar, the Welfare Officer etc. camped in the hamlet even in the nights and tried to brainwash. Every family was given Rs.5000/- as assistance from government, every house was supplied with rice and dal, Cards were updated, digging of a well for drinking water was started on war footing, assurance for allotment of land with land records was given to every inhabitant. Notwithstanding all these, the people were refusing to deny stone eating. Then the technique of creating fear psychosis was employed. The people were told that if they do not deny stone eating, they shall be subjected to stomach operation as that is required by law. Superstitious by nature, the illiterate and inanimate inhabitants of Nangalghat panicked. To heighten their panic, and to frighten the community of scribes, prosecution of the two concerned journalists under charges of sedition was contemplated.

The helpless people of Nangalghat finally agreed to agree with official version that they do not eat stones, reports Putel on personal observation.

It is worth noting that prosecution under Section 124(A) for sedition over and above other charges have been started in the Sinapalli Police Station against the two journalists following F.I.R. filed by the DWO But surprisingly the DWO had not filed the F.I.R. in the Sinapalli P.S. He knew that the allegations he was raising were false. He knew that the allegations were unilateral, as he had not checked up the matter with the two journalists as well as Baru Singh Paharia, the person caught in camera while consuming stones. He knew that on that ground the Police Officer at Sinapalli may not register the desired case. So, in the chamber of the Collector it was decided to address the letter to the S.P. who in turn had to issue orders to the Sinapalli Police Station to register the case(s) against the two journalists charging them for sedition etc u/s 124 (A), 417, 34 IPC.

The S.P. issued this order on 29.5.2007 and as Putel reports, from that day, bribing the inhabitants of Nangakghat commenced.

Possibility of backdated documentation

It is also possible that the documents used against the two journalists were prepared backdated. Mark the dates in the letter of the DWO that now has been used as the F.I.R. The DWO brings in the conspiracy-against-administration-angle in this letter on 28. 5. 2007 following “instructions” of the Collector. The S.P. waits for a day and then interprets this conspiracy as sedition and issues a confidential order to Sinapalli P.S. to register the letter of DWO as F.I.R. and effect a formal investigation by the Circle Inspector of Police on 29. 5 2007. Normally it is not possible on part of the S.P. to sit over the latter of the DWO for a day as the letter depicting a threat to administration was received personally from the senior officer. There cannot be any doubt over the fact that the DWO had personally handed over the letter to the S.P. as otherwise there should certainly have been a diary number of the S.P. office on the body of the letter. Absence of any such diary number establishes the fact that the DWO, under “instructions” or in presence of the District Collector, had handed over the letter to the S.P. and so, if it was handed over on 28. 5. 2007 in person, it was natural on part of the S.P.to have discussed the matter with the DWO and/or the Collector present and then and there to issue the instruction to the P.S. for registration of the letter as F.I.R., which, in stead of doing as expected in presence of the senior officer(s), he has done on 29. 5. 2007.

If the S.P.’s action is genuine, then it is clear that the DWO’s letter was backdated. But the registration of the F.I.R. indicates that the S.P.’s order was also backdated.

Mark the timing.

If the S.P.’s order was really issued vide No.166/Con. on 29. 5. 2007, a mere OIC of a P.S. like Sinapalli could never have slept over it till 7 P.M. of 31. 5 2007. No sub-inspector of Police could ever have dared to sleep over the S.P.’s confidential order in such a serious case for at least two nights and two-and-half a days like it has happened here. So, it has never happened. Had it really happened, the OIC could have been subjected to disciplinary proceedings for negligence in duty. No such proceeding against the OIC has been initiated. Hence, in the eyes of the Police authorities, the OIC has not slept over the S.P.’s order. What does it indicate? It indicates that the S.P. had not issued the order for registration of the DWO’s letter as F.I.R. on 29. 5. 2007, but on 31. 5. 2007.

So, the SP.’s order was also backdated.

Mark again the timing.

The F.I.R. has been registered at 7 P.M. of 31. 5. 2007. This is exactly the time when the program for telecasting of the stone eating scene had begun. So, it is clearly possible that the entire documentation was backdated to harass the journalists after the news was on records.

Let us wait to see if the House Committee sees through the hushing up exercise and also to see how the Human Rights Commission deals with it.

In the meantime, the question raised by this reporter as to who should be held for sedition: the journalists or the people who rule over the state, has attracted thinking minds as on the same subject a gathering of intellectuals of Bhubaneswar has deliberated upon recently. Two different trade unions of working journalist have also decided to stage a demonstration before the Assembly on 28 this month in protest against prosecution of journalists under charges of sedition.

WE MUST SAVE ORISSA FROM BECOMING A NEW NAZIDOM

Subhas Chandra Pttanayak

For one who loves Orissa it would be very painful if some one calls it Nazidom.

But when journalists are charged for sedition for having brought to light the gruelling plights the people are subjected to and managements are made to dismiss them from service even as ministers make misleading statements in the Assembly to show that the journalists were wrong, how can one say that the scenario is different from what could have been under the Nazi?

Nazi, to stay in power, depended on two stratagems: using the lies and obstructing the truth.

The first stratagem was in use in Orissa. The second stratagem has now been resorted to in the matter of stone eating by starved people of Sinapalli Block in the district of Nuapada.

As apprehended, OTV, the audio-visual channel of BJD MP Baijayant Panda has dismissed from service the reporters who had captured the act of stone eating and whose report the editorial board of the channel had telecasted at 7 PM of 31.5.2007 followed by expression of regrets by OTV for having telecasted a “false report”.

Shenanigans were such that the media management could not found it prudent to ask the dismissed reporters for their views on the allegation that their reports were wrong.

In Nazidom natural justice is denied to watchdogs of public interests. And, people, like we in Orissa, remain reluctant to react.

If to us it is not acceptable, we must demand for reinstatement of the dismissed reporters of OTV and for withdrawal of sedition and other charges from the said reporters and for fixation of responsibility on the team of officers for having contributed to misleading of the Assembly as discussed earlier and for having implicated the said reporters in false police cases.

If we are a responsible democracy, we cannot bear with such clumsy cases against scribes and camera journalists and cannot allow self-propelling into neo-Nazism.