Wednesday, February 10, 2016

When humans depend on guns to buy peace!

It is said India spends somewhere between 200-300 million USD per year and Pakistan about 50-60 million USD per year to guard the world's highest and most difficult Siachen glacier, where no one stays and where it is almost difficult to do anything. And both the countries are spending this since 1984.

So, in about 34 years India and Pakistan together must have spent between 8500 and 12,240 million USD just to guard a glacial border.

And, that is not it. A news site claims, The Siachen Glacier has engulfed over 8,000 Indian and Pakistani soldiers between April 1984 and April 2012. All soldiers who are deployed in this glacier face acute problems both during and post deployment.


Imagine if we had a better, peace loving world, which respected humanity more than war; what would have happened with this huge amount of money spent by two poor countries of the world!!

Monday, February 8, 2016

My views in OTV documentary on Hirakud Boat Tragedy!

Last night (8th February 2016) between 10.30 and 11.00 pm, the OTV, one of Odisha's leading television channels, carried my views in its Special Report on the Hirakud Boat Tragedy that took 31 lives two years ago and shook the entire state.  The documentary showcases how nothing changed after the initial hue and cry.  Even an inquiry report by the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC) gathers dust.

The Special Report will have repeat telecasts today (9th Feb 2016) at the following times:

11.30 am - 12.00 noon
3.30 to 4.00 pm

Time permitting please watch.

Thanks,

Ranjan Panda
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)

Mob: +91-94370-50103
Email: ranjanpanda@gmail.com



Watch my views in OTV tonite about the forgotten Hirakud boat tragedy!

Tonite (8th February 2016) at 10.30 - 11.00 pm, please watch my views in the OTV special report on forgotten boat tragedy of Hirakud dam, that shook the entire state two years ago but nothing happened therefore to end such crises. An inquiry report of the RDC gathers dust!


Thanks,

Ranjan Panda
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper
(Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)
Mob: +91-94370-50103
Email: ranjanpanda@gmail.com

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Climate Resilience: A must for cities! My article published in Urban Update January 2016!


You can also read this at issuu.com. The page to look for is: urbanupdatemag

Thanks,

Ranjan Panda

Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network

Mob: +91-9437050103
Email: ranjanpanda@gmail.com

Friday, February 5, 2016

An Open Letter to PM and CM: Promote realistic development, not poster wars!

An Open Letter to Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Odisha

Dear PM of India and CM of Odisha,

How about making Paradeep a place for positive platform, for promoting an alternative politics and alternative energy; instead of engaging in a poster war?

Dear Sirs,

At the outset I congratulate you both and the people of India for achieving a new milestone in the form of an Oil Refinery at Paradeep.  I am sure tomorrow’s function will bring hopes to many in the country and also prosperity to the Oil Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) IOCL.  More public sector involvement in nation building is actually better for the country.  Congratulations to IOCL as well!

As both of you prepare to dedicate the Refinery to the nation, I write this letter raising some concerns and giving away some suggestions for your consideration.  Hope you will take positive note of the issues raised and lead your respective party members and government organisations under you to change the type of political activism and developmental agenda respectively.

The small yet significant port city of Paradeep is now witness to a huge poster war between BJP and BJD.  Ever since the date of 'dedication to nation' of the Oil Refinery has been declared, IOCL started a very proactive propaganda drive throughout the state.  The function has been named 'Urja Utsav' (Energy Festival).  Perhaps with purpose of inviting people in large numbers, IOCL planted many big size banners, in Paradeep and throughout the state, that carried pictures of the PM and the Oil Minister.  The IOCL also sent out vehicles – in Paradeep - with such posters pasted all around with big television advertisements like the ones we see during election campaigns.  Such TV advertisements came with the PM’s speeches.  Such 'prachar raths' (propaganda cars) were then seized by the Jagatsinghpur police on complaint of violation of the SC ruling that does not allow any govt. or public sector undertakings/organisations to put photographs of anyone except the PM, President and CJI.

After the Jagatsinghpur police action, when perhaps IOCL realized its mistakes, it struck down the posters of the Oil Minister.  However, perhaps that only happened in Paradeep.  In many other places of Odisha, the posters are still there hanging high in retail fuel outlets.  In Paradeep, the posters have now been modified a bit and have come up with BJP being the host organization.  In the new posters, that has exactly the same publicity materials that used to be in the previous IOCL posters – still seen in other places of Odisha, there are now three photographs – the PM, BJP National President and the Oil Minister.

In the meantime, BJD also started planting its own posters with the CM’s photographs.  Situation has come to such a pass that, people of the state witness a poster war between BJP and BJD on the streets of Paradeep and Bhubaneswar.  No one knows who pays for all these poster wars, but the message is clear that two political parties are trying to establish their claims over the establishment of the Oil Refinery of IOCL at Paradeep. In reality, the Refinery has been done with tax payers' money and local peoples' sacrifice and contribution. 

If the Refinery benefits the common people, they will definitely give credit to the governments. And if the people feel the 'dedication to nation' ceremony is so important, people will definitely attend the function on their own.  We hear that both BJP and BJD are driving lakhs of people from across the state to show their strength before their leaders.  Is it really necessary? 

Indian politics, to my opinion, really needs to change from such mindsets to a new era altogether.  The people need more progressive ideas and alternative politics.  In this regard, keeping in mind the landmark day for Paradeep, may I request you to please look into the following suggestions?

1. If the IOCL has so much money for such a massive propaganda for this event, they should have invested in their CSR initiatives with investment in mangrove protection, wind energy and solar energy promotion, irrigation assurance to farmers, etc.

2. Many IOCL retail outlets have poor facilities for customers such as sheds, drinking water and good toilets.  They could have prioritized to invest in improving all these.

3. If the political parties can save on the fuel and pollution from the vehicles that would drive lakhs of party workers to Paradeep, that can be invested in better works like supporting the farmers in distress, so on and so forth.  I am sure that would fetch more votes than showing strength before party leaders.

4. Each street light pillar in Paradeep now has posters of BJP or BJD or both.  It would have been so beautiful had they invested the same amount of rupees in giving solar street lights.  

We really expect a modern era of politics from both of you, Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Chief Minister, to promote realistic and alternative politics that promotes people centric development, including alternative energy, and limited expenses on propaganda. 

Hope these words reach you and reasons prevail!

Thanking you,
Truly,

Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha

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Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two and half decades now.

Unmasking Development: Why the locals oppose mining?

(A mobile pic: Ranjan K Panda)

An interesting scene was visible today, in front of the Collector's office in Odisha's Sambalpur district.  Hundreds of tribal villagers from two Gram Panchayats of Rengali Block, who have been protecting a natural forest of 73 acres since several decades, were staging a protest against the district administration's conspiracy to destroy that forest.  By side of this demonstration there was another group of protesters, ex-employees of the Bhusan Power and Steel Ltd. company located in the same Block, who were staging a protest against the Chairman and Managing Director of the said company.  This image unmasks the real face of development.  See how.

Rengali block is one of the heavily industrialised areas of the state. Several mining and industrial houses have been allowed to loot the mineral resources, forest resources, water and the local people in the name of development here.  One of the strongest arguments given for this loot by the industries and the government authorities is that these factories and mines create jobs and employment for the local people among others.  

The tribals oppose these industries because they not only fail to keep all their promises, but also destroy their life and livelihood sustaining resources forever. The Bhusan company has done exactly that.  It has chopped off thousands of hectares of forests, displaced lakhs of people, polluted the local area, killed several water bodies and destroyed the nearby streams/rivulets/rivers.  It also heavily pollutes the Hirakud reservoir.  All this in the name of employment generation and development.

However, the ex-employees of Bhusan company say they have been thrown away for no reason, citing funny explanations.  Many locals have actually been provided with wage labour jobs under private contractors and not by the Company itself.  And these jobs are completely at the mercy of private contractors who not only pay less but don't provide any job security or other facilities whatsoever.  The forests at least provided them food and woods when needed.  Now they have neither the forests nor the jobs! 

The tribals protesting to protect the Chirgun Dungri forests are at the first stage of war against development.  A private mining contractor is illegally mining quartz from their forests by getting a no objection certificate from the local Sarpanch in fallacious ways, they allege.  They have been complaining against this to the forest department and District Collector.  No one listens.  

They know mining kills forests and destroys their livelihood forever but the mining companies ultimately profit, along with them the politicians and bureaucrats get some benefits.  They are now preparing for their second stage of war, which begins with today's demonstration in front of the Sambalpur District Collector. 

I got a chance to address to the demonstrating tribals and I told that the demonstrators under the tent besides are fighting the burning example of the real outcome of Development.  Some of them must have protested against the land acquisition by Bhusan company at the first instance for sure, as the first stage of protest.  Then while some would have continued with the protest, some would have agreed to the promises.  Some would have then received jobs participating thereby in the Development Process.  

Now, the ones who have lost jobs are again at war with Development.  They burn the effigies of Bhusan company owners in front of Sambalpur's Collector office with a demand to return back to the Development process as because they have nothing to fall back upon, anymore.  Their lands are gone, forests vanished and ability to live with local resources is perhaps also lost.

However, the tribals protesting against mining in a lush green forests are, in my opinion, talking about the real Development: that is sustainable, that does not displace, that does not pollute and that does not cause global warning.  

Good that both the demonstartions were going on side by side.  At least the people with conscience would realize the real face of Development.  For those, who are sold out to interest of the greedy capital, nothing proves an eye opener!

I wish the Chirgun Dungri Jungle Suraksha Mancha all success!!

 - Ranjan Panda


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bhubaneswar Smart City at whose cost? An WIO Update...

Who will meet Smart City’s Real Cost?
An Occasional Update from Water Initiatives Odisha(WIO) 
3rd February, 2016


Inline image 1
(Image Courtesy: FB page of Bhubaneswar Smart City)


Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

While we at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) congratulate the state of Odisha for having topped the list in the Smart City competition, we have some concerns to raise as well.  

In a letter written to the Odisha Chief Minister, we have asked him to act on the following concerns as soon as possible. 

While we at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) congratulate the state of Odisha for having topped the list in the Smart City competition, we have some concerns to raise as well.  This email is to apprise you about such concerns requesting you to take the necessary steps.

As per the highlighted plans that we come across from media reports and statements of officials from the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation(BMC), the pilot Smart City called “Bhubaneswar Town Centre District(BTCD)” will be built in an area of 985 acres with a population of 46000 people.  To provide so called smart and efficient facilities to this city, an amount of more than 4500 crores will be spent, 3500 crores of which will be a loan from the World Bank. 

This means about one million Indian Rupees will be invested per head in this area, 78 per cent of which would be a loan.  In other words, if each citizen of the Smart City has to pay back for these smart services she/he receives, she/he has to pay back 7,80,000 rupees with interest to the World Bank.  We don't think this is a smart idea!

"Has the state government got any revenue generation plan from the Smart City area to be able to repay the loans or all this burden will be transferred to common citizens?” is a natural question that arises which the government needs to answer. The government must make public the Revenue Plans for the Smart City area and assure the common citizens of the state that they don’t have to subsidize for the smart services to a small fraction of the capital city.  

In a state that is still not able to provide the promised 35 per cent irrigation to all its farmers and where farmer suicide cases have been increasing, how wise it is to spend so much of money (majority of which is loan) that is almost 12.5 per cent more than the entire yearly budget of the Water Resources Department of the state?

The Smart City scheme is a central government’s initiative and we understand the state entered into a competition to get into the list.  However, we don’t understand why so much of loan has to be borrowed to develop good infrastructure for just a miniscule size of population and area in the state.  

Further, most of our urban areas of the state are lacking basic minimum facilities.  Such expensive infrastructure model for a very small section of population in the state will increase further discrimination and discontent in the state.

Highlights of this Update:

  • One Million Rupee to be invested for each person residing in Bhubaneswar Town Centre District(BTCD)
  • 78 per cent of this per head investment will be a loan from the World Bank
  • The investment to provide better facilities to only 46000 urban people will be more than the entire yearly budget of the Water Resources Department of the state
  • WIO asks the Govt. of Odisha to make public the revenue plans of Smart City investments

We look forward to your comments, suggestions and support on this issue.

Thanks and regards,


Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha


Tweet @ranjanpanda
Tweet @MahanadiRiver

Skype: ranjan.climatecrusader


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Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) is a state level coalition of civil society organisations, farmers, academia, media and other concerned, which has been working on water, environment and climate change issues in the state for more than two and half decades now.