WHITHER IS MOTHER INDIA WANDERING?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Even as Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh’s political boss Sonia Gandhi is using her power to project her son Rahul as the future PM, Thekki of Patnagarh, daughter of Hanu nag, who had sold away her three year son Gurubari for Rs.3000/- is not happy even after getting him back, as, to her there is no avenue available to feed her child.

Whither is Mother India wandering?

Look at Thekki and search for the answer.

A mother of three children, she has been abandoned by her husband. Whether he has left her with deliberate intention or under unavoidable compulsion, she does not know. But she knows, abject poverty has played the tricks.

She has no source of income. She has no land. She has none in the family on whom she can depend. Starved, she is in a state of inanition. Her third child, the last gift of the husband now no more with her, is suckling. No avenue of income is available in the village or near about. How to live and how to keep her children alive?

In such a predicament she had sold away her second child Gurubari, a son aged three, for that seemed to be the instant life-support to her and the rest two children besides being the best way to save her second son from starvation death.

Media exposed this sordid event in order only to expose the misrule that has engulfed Orissa.

And Orissa government in order to stop further spread of the picture of its misrule, pressed the area Sub-Collector to force the purchaser of the boy to surrender him to avoid prosecution and thus the boy has come back to his mother.
Depositing the child on her lap, the Sub-Collector had ordered for supply of 20 Kgs of rice to her to preempt allegation of starvation death, if any occurs in future. The person who delivered the rice has perhaps misappropriated one kg thereof and thus, nineteen kg rice has been given to her.

She does not know what to do and how to live hereafter.

The swindlers who, headed by the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had sold away our public assets to private profiteers by forming a specific ministry for that treacherous purpose, have already started their election campaign to register in public mind a hard core communalist as their Prime Ministerial candidate when the incumbent PM Dr. Man Mohan Singh is single-mindedly concentrated on contriving ways to serve the nuke interest of USA even though that would be sheer catastrophic for the peoples of India.

Trading between these two lurking dangers to our democracy, queen of cautious stratagem Sonia Gandhi has been building up her son Rahul to grab power.

When national politics is thus shrouded under the clouds of vested interests, Orissa, ethically averse to BJP and circumstantially to Congress, has embraced a bear that does not bother for the children of the soil when outsider industrialists warrant his services.

Where to shall go the Thekkis and their children? Whither Mother India is wandering?

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THE CORRUPT GOVERNMENT HAS FINALLY PUSHED PEOPLE INTO CHOLERA

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Continuous slow-starvation has finally culminated in cholera that has by this time taken a toll of around two hundred lives in the KBK region, where the government run by Naveen Patnaik, is more engaged in spreading his father Biju’s name in the guise of Biju KBK Plan than implementing poverty amelioration programs like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

The people have been perishing to such extent under this misrule that some of them have even tried to thrive on a specific type of stone called Jhikiri. We have discussed in these pages how the government has tried to hush up the sordid news of stone eating and how reporters have been prosecuted under charges of sedition for having brought to light this appalling condition.

More appalling is the unrelenting apathy of administration. We had cited reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and the interim report of the Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) to show how the funds allocated to provide food security were being looted away by people in power and commission-agents and how the NREGS was being hijacked by corrupt officers.

In its interim report, the CEFS had observed,

“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 CAG had reported,

“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 labours and instead led to undue benefit to the contractors”.

Government did not bother.

The longest time chief of KBK Plan, who should have been punished for blatant misappropriation of KBK funds compelling people to distress sale paddy, to distress sale body, to distress sale babies and finally to migrate into neighboring states in search of bread, has been rewarded with the post of Chief secretary by Naveen Patnaik. No responsibility has been fixed and no functionary is punished for misappropriation and malfeasances, such is the character of this administration.

In its final report on the performance of NREGA in Orissa, the CEFS has established that 75 % of the funds has been looted by government officials. In a press release on August 17, it has sated, “The findings of a survey conducted in 100 villages of Orissa’s 6 districts have revealed that out of Rs 733 crore spent under NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in Orissa during 2006-7, more than 500 crore has been siphoned and misappropriated by the government officials of implementing agencies. In other words, less than 25 per cent of the NREGS funds have reached the targeted population and more than 75 per cent have been eaten up by sarkari babus. There are thousands of villages in Orissa where more than 80-90 percent of NREGS funds have been misappropriated by the executing officials”.

The CEFS report entirely available in its official website has been elaborately covered by the national as well as Orissa’s regional media. But the administration is so recalcitrant that it has kept its eyes close to these reports.

Under such an apathetic administration, the people of KBK region, mostly the landless tribal people and the marginal farmers, sans necessary food and sans drinking water, have been suffering from slow starvation for years.

Slow starvation has severely affected their immunity and aggravated stomach problem that has now culminated in cholera.

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.