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Meet the Gandhian Geographer from Maharashtra – VG Amrite

 

CHRONICLES MUMBAI’S LITTLE PEOPLE WITH BIG IDEAS
He plods through the plains of Maharashtra on a Kinetic scooter. “I prefer a non-gear scooter“, says geographer, educationist and antiplagiarism activist, VG Amrite, “since I can shoot at sight. His weapon, a simple camera.“Why, I ask him, is this cross-country travel so important in this day and age of apps and Google maps? He replies,“You cannot understand water scarcity in Marathwada without maps. There is a water divide in Maharashtra on either side of the Sayadharis. If we grasp the nature of water surplus and water deficit, we can provide water to all.“

This is Amrite’s credo: geography is nothing but application. Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Ritter are considered to be the fathers of geography. Like them, and his gurus, CD Deshmukh and CB Joshi, Amrite believes geography is an applied discipline to solve societal problems. His latest project is: creating a bi-lingual Gujarat atlas in Gujarati and English.He says,“There is no map awareness among the lay people.“

Born in Bordi, he says, he would have been a farmer. Even today, the family owns 20 acres of land which grows chikoo and peru. One of the early influences in his life was his father, a Gandhian, who taught Hindi in the balwadis of Dahanu taluka. “Father was an atheist, but a member of all the temple trusts because the people of the region trusted him.“

Besides “trust“, Amrite has inherited many things from his father, who lived till the age of 95. “The tenets of Nayi Taleem under the trees and the creation of the Prayogsheel Shaala as well as Gyan Rachna Wada (constructivism education), where we felt one must be a facilitator of ideas and not a mere teacher. It was not bookish education but exploring the world through the paddy fields, carpentry, weaving, observing trees and the birds.“

That is how the importance of children’s education was drilled into Amrite.

Education, remains Amrite’s passion. He has headed many committees including the Bal Bharti textbook board in Maharashtra. The aim has been simple: “create good, informative books and ensure the language is simple and accessible.“ Even today, he tries to “correct the many wrongs that bedevil our education“ for a salary of Rs 1.

He has created more than 75 booklets and maps of all shapes and hues. That’s why his students refer to him as “the SP Chatterjee of Maharashtra“ -a polymath who believes geography cannot afford to fade from our collective memory. Like Chatterjee, he is curious about everything, be it, wielding the harmonium or a flute; or being a shishya to Vasant Dev (lyricist and translator) in the formative years of his life. His interdisciplinary approach puts paid to the absurd notion that geography and the arts are separate entities.

As I descend the stairs and open the gate, Raga Yaman is being rendered on a flute.VG Amrite hopes that one day, his geogra phy lessons will be musical, lyricalal and hummable and not so easily pigeon-holed.

-(Ramu Ramanathan is a playwright, editor of PrintWeek and a Mumbaikar. )

Short takes

What is the best place in Mumbai?
The home of Jhunnarkar, a retired teacher from Paranjpe School, is an adda. All geographers from Mumbai meet regularly at his home near Shivaji Park to admire the models he has collected on his various trips in India and overseas.

A day in Mumbai which you shall never forget?
I was delivering a lecture in a city college in Byculla about monsoon cycles, when the 1992 riots broke out. As I was returning home, I thought to myself how geography can be a unifying factor.

One event in Mumbai which cast an everlasting impression on you?
CB Joshi was the head at Ruparel College. When he shifted to Parle College to set up the geography department, everyone migrated with him. The teaching staff and the office staff, with our teaching tools plus the minerals and rocks in our pocket. It was a juloos from Dadar to Parle.

 http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31821&articlexml=VG-Amrite-The-Gandhian-Geographer-28032017049011

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Rajasthan: 20-year-old girl burnt alive for protesting over cutting of trees in Jodhpur #WTFnews

Boruda Police has registered a case in the matter and is further investigating the entire incident.

A 20-year-old girl was burnt alive on Sunday in India’s western state of Rajasthan after she allegedly protested over cutting of trees, news agency ANI reported.

The victim, identified as Lalita, had objected to the cutting of trees in her farm in Jodhpur’s Pipda city, police said.

The body of the girl has been kept in MJH hospital of Jodhpur, according to reports. She died in the hospital this morning.

Head of the village Ranveer Singh was also involved in this incident, ANI reported.

Police officer Suresh Chaudhary told ANI, “The sarpanch and other people poured petrol on her and burnt her alive. The body is in the mortuary. We will arrest the accused soon, after a fair investigation.”

The Boruda Police has registered a case in the matter and is further investigating the entire incident. 10 people have been named in the FIR or complaint, NDTV reported.

(WION with inputs from ANI)

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Goa – The teacher who brought errant mining firms to their knees

| TNN | 

Representative image Representative image
GOA: “Don’t underestimate the power of the common man,” he said, sitting at his home in the heart of Bicholim town. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had approached him to contest polls, which he politely refused.

From working relentlessly to allow dalits in Goa’s villages to use community water sources to encouraging inter-caste marriages, to exposing superstitious practices, teacher-activist Ramesh Gauns has dedicated himself to social causes since 1977.

But his mission in life was to bring errant mining companies to their knees. His activism not only made mining companies follow regulations on dumping of mining wastes, but also resulted in the rehabilitation of used mines, making him somewhat of a messiah for Goans.

It was a casual grumbling by a neighbour on how children from a school were forced to walk through mining sludge that led to the start of a full-fledged movement in 2003, which advanced to a mining ban in Goa in 2012.

This feisty anti-mining activist is quite a different person in reality, who goes all pensive on an unattained desire in life. “My only regret is that no one taught me to sing. As a child, I was good at drawing, cricket, football and badminton. I was the first person from Goa to go mountaineering in 1968. I later acted in numerous dramas and directed at least 100. I write poetry too. Today, my students find it hard to believe this side of me,” said an ever cheerful Gauns.

With his wife Shardha recuperating from a brain haemorrhage, Gauns begins his day with cooking for his family. This national awardee school teacher then reports to duty. And, by the time he is back home, there is already a queue waiting for him, some looking for assistance on writing RTI applications and others for legal help. Gauns taught himself law to counter the authorities appropriately.

“The national and international media, which have come here to make documentaries on my work, told me that I single-handedly do a whole NGO’s work. But I prefer it this way. I don’t like to associate myself with any NGO. I don’t want any obligations. I have been offered lakhs of rupees of foreign funding and crores of rupees in bribes, but I have refused them. Then there were parties like AAP asking me to contest the polls. I said a stern no,” said the unusually soft-spoken Gauns.
Image result for goa Ramesh Gauns mining
Born at his mother’s house in Betki, Gauns spent much of his childhood there, playing by gurgling streams amidst dense plantations. There, he believes, the anti-mining activist was born, who would, decades later, question the likes of the Centre for Science and Environment over the impact of mining on water sources.

After schooling at Bicholim’s Shantadurga High School, Gauns moved to Chowgule College in Margao, but he had to soon shift closer home to St Xavier’s College in Mapusa as his health suffered due to the lack of good living facilities away from home back then.

Gauns soon launched his activities to abolish superstition and began to train students to complete their education after ‘schools discarded them as useless’. He was often faced with aggressive mobs in his quest to do away with casteism, but he refused to give up.

“In the early 70s, I got a job as a draftsman with Chowgules. It was a well-paying job then and when I eventually decided to leave to be a school teacher, people laughed,” said Gauns.

What shaped the Gauns of today, he opines, were a few experiences including the visit to North India through the Gandhi Foundation during the Sikh riots and to North-East India during the height of Hindu-right wing violence against Christian missionaries.

Gauns has even scripted a concept of progressive weddings, where he conducts the marriage ceremony. “If we do not believe in the caste system, why should we call a priest from a particular caste to perform a Hindu wedding ceremony,” he asked.

Taking his activism a step forward, Gauns drew names for his children from different religions; Annie, Salma, Kurnd and Akash. He, however, said he does not expect his children to take after him in any way. “Different human beings are shaped by their own varied experiences. They cannot be made with a laboratory-like formula,” he added.

No matter how busy or difficult his day is, Gauns ends it with reading. “I read anything and everything, from Sane Guruji, to Gandhi, to Aristotle, to Socrates. But, in the end, it is important to draw only what you believe in and become your own person,” he said.

 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/the-teacher-who-brought-errant-mining-firms-to-their-knees/articleshow/57833003.cms?from=mdr

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Meet The Woman Who Brought Drinking Water, Toilets To A Tamil Nadu Village

Five years ago, Melamarungoor, a panchayat in Sivagangai district, was starved of funds and official attention. Panchayat president Mazharkodi Dhanasekar built 650 toilets making the panchayat open defecation-free, brought water to villages that were dry and set up a reverse osmosis system worth Rs 300,000–all with funds that she had to lobby hard for. (Photo Credit: IndiaSpend)

By Bhanupriya Rao/ IndiaSpend

Melamarungoor, Sivagangai district (Tamil Nadu): Mazharkodi Dhanasekar has a radiant smile and is keen to talk about her achievements, which, as it emerges, are considerable: Building 650 toilets and making her panchayat in southern Tamil Nadu free of open-defecation.

Dhanasekar’s fame has spread across the district as the woman who transformed and gained attention for a remote, lost panchayat-village council-largely ignored by officials until she was elected president in 2011.

Dhanasekar, 49, is one of 40 past and current women panchayat leaders we surveyed across six Tamil Nadu districts to analyse the impact of a quarter century of reservations for women in local bodies. We found a majority of women now work independently of the men in their lives and, despite a series of hurdles that denies them access to finances, such as male-dominated political networks and limited powers, they have carved out distinct identities for themselves and overtaken men in building roads, providing drinking water and toilets, as the first part of this series explained.

Overall, Tamil Nadu now has India’s lowest fertility rate — lower than Australia, Finland and Belgium-second best infant mortality and maternal mortality rate, and records among the lowest crime rates against women and children, as IndiaSpend reported in December 2016, but places like Melamarungoor are outliers.

Drinking water once in four days, crumbling roads

“Block or district officials hardly ever came to visit our panchayat,” said Dhanasekar. “They don’t care about far-flung panchayats like ours. This meant they would not allocate extra funds for development. We just did not exist for them. Funds went to the panchayat closer to town (the block headquarters of Kalaiyarkovil).”

As you travel away from Kalaiyarkovil towards the neighbouring district of Ramanathapuram — close to which Melamarungoor is situated — the roads are pocked with potholes. On some stretches, only blobs of tar remain, the rest is mud. This is an arid part of Tamil Nadu and villages struggle to find drinking water. Women and schoolgirls in uniform line up plastic pots near common drinking-water taps once in four days, which is when the water comes.

“I wanted to change that,” said Dhanasekar. “The only way, I realised, the district administration took notice of panchayats like ours was to completely transform it, show them what can be done. I managed to do that.”

When Dhanasekar assumed office six years ago, the balance sheet of her panchayat was a cause for concern. In 2005, eight villages from Ramanathapuram district were added to the 17 governed by the Melamarungoor panchayat.

However, State Finance Commission (SFC) grants meant for the eight Ramanathapuram villages were not reallocated to Melamarungoor. SFC grants, funds devolved by the state government, are the single biggest source of income for panchayats.

Dhanasekar’s first crusade was to get those SFC grants reallocated to Melamarungoor, which took a stream of petitions, weekly attendance at the district collectorate and more than six months of correspondence between the state department of rural development and the district administration.

She next turned her attention to the scarcity of drinking water.

Five years to bring drinking water to seven villages

Drinking water is a major problem across Sivagangai district. Villages in the district receive water mostly under the Combined Drinking Water Supply Scheme, popularly called “Cauvery water”, from the contested river that flows south from Karnataka.

In rural areas, every habitation has one or more common drinking-water taps, which get water at fixed times. Of 3,352 rural habitations in Sivagangai, 397 habitations get some drinking water-10-39 lt per capita per day, against the 40 lt set by the National Rural Drinking Water Programme-and 2,955 get 40 lt, according to 2016 Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board data.

In recent times, due to failing monsoons and mining in the Cauvery basin, villages now receive water once in four days, sometimes.

For villages bordering Ramanathapuram district, salinity is an additional problem because the Indian ocean is nearby. As a 2014 report shows, desalination plants either do not work or operate below capacity. The eight Ramanathapuram villages added to Melamarungoor were acutely short of potable drinking water. It took Dhanasekar five years to have pipes laid and drinking water brought to seven of those villages. One village, Sattanur, still does not have a water source.

“I had to petition the Kalaiyarkovil panchayat union president (the panchayat union is the second tier of local government, a group of all gram panchayats in the Block) to get Rs 300,000 sanctioned for a reverse osmosis (RO) plant in one of those eight villages, so that villages around can get better drinking water,” said Dhanasekar.

Before the RO plant started in 2015, people bought water at Rs 30 per pot. Now they pay Rs 5 per pot, so waste is discouraged. “Water in these parts in a valuable commodity and people should know its value,” said Dhanasekar.

The shortage and value of money

Panchayats in Tamil Nadu are short of funds, as earlier parts of this series have pointed out. To get funds from other elected representatives, access to political networks is key-particularly difficult for women, most of whom are first-time politicians. Although panchayat leaders are not supposed to be affiliated to political parties, such affiliations are now common and, often, determine funding.

The Panchayat Union in Kalaiyarkovil Block is led by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Since Dhanasekar’s family was allied with the AIADMK, it was not as difficult as it could have been.

“I could get some funds for another RO plant in my panchayat from the Panchayat Union,” Dhanasekar. “But if you have links to a rival party, say the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), getting funds is next to impossible.”

Dhanasekar’s biggest achievement, however, is not only that she built 650 toilets in her panchayat, but she did it cheaper than others, spending Rs 13,500 per toilet — of which Rs 12,000 is subsidised by the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission), or SBM — by buying raw material in bulk and engaging labour from the adjacent Virudhunagar district for an entire year, not just to build these toilets, but other village construction activities such as the new Village Poverty Reduction Committee office.

A household toilet costs between Rs 20,000 and Rs 40,000, according to this 2016 field survey of SBM by Accountability Initiative, a Delhi-based think tank.

Still, Dhanasekar had to spend more than Rs 100,000 of her own money to manage the shortfall, which some villagers could not pay. The money will not be reimbursed.

Dhanasekar is a Maravar, a subcaste of the dominant Thevar community, and her family owns 15 acres of land in Melamarungoor, so she can absorb the loss. Although agriculture over the last five years has failed because of scanty rain, her family’s finance and money-lending business sustains them well.

Dhanasekar is willing to spend her own money because of her determination to put Melamarungoor on the district map of Sivagangai as a model panchayat. But many panchayat presidents, especially those women of limited means, cannot do the same.

(Series concluded. In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Bhanupriya Rao is a co-creator of GenderinPolitics, a project which tracks women’s representation and political participation in India at all levels of governance. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at [email protected] You can read the report here: http://www.indiaspend.com/special-reports/the-woman-who-brought-drinking-water-toilets-to-a-lost-panchayat-59421)

(This story has not

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Kerala to be first state in the country to have National Emergency Response System

 

The single emergency number would be 112.
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The NERS system was proposed by the Indian government in the aftermath of the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi.

If the state executes it as planned, Kerala could soon become the first state in the country to implement the National Emergency Response System (NERS) proposed by Union government after the Nirbhaya gang rape incident in Delhi in 2012. The NERS was envisaged as a system to integrate all the present emergency numbers to one platform and just have a single helpline number. Kerala Director General of Police on Saturday said that the state expects to launch the system in three to four months, and that the work has been going on well.

The single emergency number would be 112.

“It is an integrated helpline number that can be dialed in any kind of emergency. The calls will be redirected to the departments concerned according to the nature of the emergency,“ Kerala DGP Behera said, The Times ofIndia reports.

At present, there are separate emergency numbers such as 100 for police, 101 for fire force and 102 for ambulance, which according to Behera will be integrated into just one number 112 under NERS. This also enables a person to call to the emergency number from anywhere in the state that 112 control room would receive it and redirect the information to concerned department.

Behera also said that high quality security cameras will be installed in state and National highways across state from Kasaragod (northern end) to Thiruvananthapuram. He said that it is expected to be completed within a year and control room will have live streaming facilities.

He said the department also sought funds from government to improvise control room vehicle services in state.http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kerala-be-first-state-country-have-national-emergency-response-system-58846

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Monsanto helped write cancer studies on Roundup, emails indicate

By Allen Cone   |
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Roundup, made by Monsanto, is the best-selling weed killer in the world. Farmers and others have filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco, claiming Monsanto failed to warn that exposure to Roundup could cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. Photo courtesy of Monstanto

March 15 (UPI) — Monsanto ghostwrote studies on the herbicide Roundup for the Environmental Protection Agency, documents unsealed in a federal court case seem to show.

Farmers and others are suing chemical company Monsanto, alleging that the company failed to warn them that its glyphosate-based week killer can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In company emails made public Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco, Monsanto executives discuss ghostwriting research papers on Roundup, the company’s best-selling product, that would be signed by scientists. Two papers on Roundup were eventually published, one in 2000 and one in 2013.

The documents, which were unsealed by U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, include Monsanto’s internal emails and also emails between the company and federal regulators.

In one email, a Monsanto scientist, Dr. William Heydens, mentioned he could write the 2013 report.

“We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak,” Heydens wrote, noting it was done in 2000.

In a blog post, the company said Heydens’ contributions in 2000 were fully disclosed in the report’s acknowledgments section, and said the paper underwent a rigorous peer review process before being published. The blog did not address the 2013 report.

“Plaintiffs’ attorneys have cherry picked a single email – out of more than 10 million pages of documents produced – to allege that Monsanto scientists ghostwrote” the report, the company said on the blog.

Jess Rowland, an EPA official in charge of evaluating whether glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, causes cancer, relied on the reports to conclude that glyphosate shouldn’t be classified as carcinogenic.

In an April 2015 phone conversation with a Monsanto executive, he said he could kill an investigation, according to the court documents.

“If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Rowland told a Monsanto regulatory affairs manager, Dan Jenkins, who related the conversation to his colleagues in an email.

The company, according to the filing, sought Rowland’s help stopping an investigation of glyphosate by a separate office, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Rowland, who retired last year, is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Scott Partridge, Monsanto vice president of global strategy, told Bloomberg it would be “remarkable” if Monsanto could influence the EPA. He described the emails as “a natural flow of information” between the company and the EPA.

The company also defended glyphosate.

“The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world,” Monsanto said in a statement.

On March 10, the company lost a court case to keep glyphosate off California’s public list of cancer-causing chemicals.

Tim Litzenburg, one of the lawyers suing Monsanto, said the cache of unsealed documents “represents a huge development in public health.http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2017/03/15/Monsanto-helped-write-cancer-studies-on-Roundup-emails-indicate/2171489581696/

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After defeating Posco, farmers turn to reclaim betel leaf economy

The formal closure of Posco’s steel plant project in Odisha is seen as a victory of agrarian economy over unwanted industrialization and the betel leaf farmers of Jagatsinghpur are rejoicing, although those who lost their land face new challenges

A betel leaf vineyard in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha. (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

A betel leaf vineyard in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha. (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

In a unique case of victory of the agrarian economy over mineral-based industrial economy, betel leaf farming in the Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha proved to be more dependable and promising than the proposed $12 billion integrated steel plant project planned by one of the world’s largest steel producer POSCO.

The betel leaf stood firm against steel and forced the South Korean steel major out of its Odisha project. POSCO confirmed the withdrawal of its project by requesting the Odisha government to take back the land transferred in its name, according to a statement by Odisha’s Industry Minister Devi Prasad Mishra made on March 18.

POSCO had suspended its the project in July 2015 and, later, by deciding to temporarily freeze the project in 2016. Experts say POSCO had to drop the idea of investment in Odisha as the project couldn’t make any progress over the years due to strong resistance by local people. Since signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Odisha government for the project on June 22, 2005, POSCO faced consistent opposition from local people, many of whom were betel leaf cultivators.

Betel leaf economy

It’s important to realize the economic importance of betel leaf in order to understand the factors behind people’s fight against the gigantic project that would have attracted largest investment by a foreign company to India.

“This is not just a leaf, but the soul of our life and economy and the source of income that any industry can hardly offer to us,” said Ramesh Chandra Pashayat of Govindpur village, who had lost his betel vineyard for the POSCO project.

“After meeting all expenses and making the labor payments, I used to earn around Rs 50,000 a month from my vineyard on nearly 40 decimal of land. This apart, the cashew plants around it fetched me be Rs 30-40,000 in a season. This apart, the mango and moringa trees in the vicinity always supported our food and income,” said Sridhar Swain of the same village, while asking: “Given the fact that I don’t have any formal education, can POSCO or any other industry offer me an opportunity of this kind?”

“This is the reason why we opposed POSCO and wanted to protect our land and the dependable source of livelihood — the betel vines,” Sridhar told VillageSquare.in.

A transit camp lies abandoned after supporters of the Posco project were evicted. (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

A transit camp lies abandoned after supporters of the Posco project were evicted. (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

Stronger than steel

According to the farmers, the vineyards raised by the villagers had the potential to employ thousands of people from this locality and even from outside. The daily transaction in the betel leaf business in the area exceeded Rs 5 million.

“The cultivation of betel leaf generated significant income. Destruction through the project development promised little compared to the social, economic and cultural benefits of existing livelihoods,” notes the Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights, based on facts collected on the ground.

As per rough estimates, a vineyard raised on an acre (100 decimal) of land usually fetches the farmer a profit over Rs 1 million every year. This means every decimal of land pays the farmer at least Rs 10,000 a year. This economics probably made the betel leaf stronger than steel and a better choice for people.

“While acquiring land for POSCO, the government offered us Rs 11,500 per decimal of land as one-time compensation money. How could a farmer sacrifice the land permanently for such a meager compensation?” questioned Bishnu Das, a betel leaf grower.

Forceful demolition

Despite strong opposition from the farmers, the government didn’t heed to their voice and demands. Going by its unilateral decision in favor of POSCO, the local administration demolished hundreds of acres of vineyards by force. “Some of the vineyard owners were forced to accept the compensation money and vacate their land while at least 32 farmers didn’t get any compensation for their vineyards,” said Nibha Samal, a farmer.

“I had spent nearly 3 lakhs of rupees to raise my vineyard on 60 decimals. The administration demolished it but didn’t pay any compensation money. The list of farmers published by the administration listed many who never had a vineyard while several of the real farmers didn’t feature in the list,” 60-year-old Shiba Bardhan told VillageSquare.in. “We have filed cases against such injustice done to us by the administration.”

“They did not only destroyed the betel vines but also cleaned the area by cutting trees around and made our green surrounding look like a desert,” said Gouri Das, a woman farmer.

An anguished Gouri Das, seen here with her son Ranjan Das, has lost her land to the now-abandoned steel project. (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

An anguished Gouri Das, seen here with her son Ranjan Das, has lost her land to the now-abandoned steel project. (Photo by Basudev Mahapatra)

Battle won, but challenges remain

Despite all efforts to curb the people’s movement and acquire the land, POSCO is now a lost dream for the Odisha government.  On the other hand, though the people’s movement came out victorious so far, it’s only a lose-lose situation for the people who lost their land, livelihood sources and everything for POSCO.

Their betel vines were demolished with promises that the upcoming project would provide an alternate livelihood. As the industry didn’t come, their livelihood is now completely lost.

“The compensation money they paid has been exhausted by now because we had to live without any immediate employment. The project didn’t happen. We are now reduced to daily wagers. How will we survive with a daily wage of 200 rupees?” asks an angry Gouri Das who has lost his land.

“The government forgot all its promises like an interim stipend, alternate livelihood etc. So, once farmers, we live like beggars today,” said Ramesh Das, who has not only lost his land but also has broken his hand in the conflict between people and the government over the POSCO project.

Those who extended whole-hearted support for the project and submitted their land are living a more miserable life. “The government betrayed us. We surrendered all our resources to see the industry in our area and enjoy the benefits of industrialisation. But the government couldn’t make it possible. Nor has it returned the land to us to continue our traditional economic activities like raising betel vines to make a survival,” said Tamil Pradhan, leader of people who supported the government.

The most pathetic story is of the people who sacrificed everything for POSCO and were kept by the government in a transit colony. “They were the first supporters of the project. But as POSCO decided to freeze the project, we suddenly became a burden on the government. The administration threatened to disconnect electricity and lock the houses unless we vacate the transit colony immediately and return home,” said Chandan Mohanty of Patana village, who was also the president of the POSCO Transit Colony Association.

“The administration even didn’t bother to shift us to our village safely. So, we had to negotiate with people who opposed POSCO project and came back to our village to live our own destiny,” he said with agony.

Sounds of another battle

As the plights of people keep increasing since POSCO has shown indications to withdraw its Odisha project, the discontent among people of the project area is simmering too. “Since POSCO has scrapped the Odisha project and the government has not taken any responsibility of the affected people and the land losers, the lands must be returned to people immediately,” said Tamil Pradhan who also hinted that the affected people and land losers are to hold a meeting soon to decide on the issues and to re-occupy their land.

“If the government was not sure about the intentions of POSCO, why did it take away and ruin our guaranteed sources of livelihood? Even if we get the land wherefrom we shall get money to re-raise our vineyards?” asked Jayanti Pashayat and many other farmers who have lost their land has been acquired for the POSCO project.

Even the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which opposed the steel project, has announced to start a mass repossession drive in the affected villages.

However, there is very little chance for the land losers to get back their land because, as per Odisha government’s revised policy for land acquisition notified on 7th February 2015, “Land acquired and possession taken over but not utilized within a period of five years from the date of possession shall in all cases revert back to the State and deposited in the Land Bank automatically.”

“The acts of the government are highly questionable because it destroyed the sources of people’s livelihood and couldn’t bring the industry to fulfill its promises of alternate livelihood. Putting people in such a miserable state is purely anti-people and against the very spirit of democracy. We won’t allow this to continue and, also, won’t allow the farm lands to be converted for any other use,” said Abhay Sahu, president of PPSS.

“Shortly, we are going to start another movement against the government and mobilise people to repossess their farm lands and reconstruct their vineyards for the cultivation of betel leaves,” PPSS Spokesperson Prashant Paikray stated.

The sounds of another war to reoccupy the land and revival of the betel leaf economy have started reverberating in the villages surrounding the land acquired in the name of the POSCO project.

Basudev Mahapatra is a journalist based in Bhubaneswar.

After defeating Posco, farmers turn to reclaim betel leaf economy

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UP wheat farmers face a grim harvest this season

RAJALAKSHMI NIRMAL

Prices have started to fall already; the State agencies have to ramp-up procurement at least this year

Wheat farmers in Uttar Pradesh are a worried lot. Procurement of the foodgrain by government agencies in the State is meagre and a likely bumper harvest this year is stoking fears of a further slide in prices.

UP contributes almost a third to the country’s total wheat production, with an annual output of around 25-27 million tonnes. But the procurement target set by the Food Ministry for UP is just 3 million tonnes for this year.

Procurement of wheat by State agencies in UP has been poor historically but last year it was significantly lower. Of the State’s total marketable surplus in wheat in 2015-16, only 4 per cent was procured by government agencies (State and Central put together) at the Minimum Support Price (MSP). This was down from 14 per cent in the previous year.

With arrivals about to start after a bumper wheat crop, farmers fear that wheat prices can fall unless procurement increases. From about ₹1,830/quintal in January, wheat prices have come down to ₹1,746/quintal now. The MSP of wheat is ₹1,625/quintal.

Relatively lower

Last fiscal, 73.4 per cent of the marketable surplus of wheat in Punjab was procured by government agencies. The share of Punjab in overall wheat production in the country is, however, much lower at 17.8 per cent. Similarly, almost 70 per cent of the marketable surplus of wheat in Haryana was procured last fiscal, showing UP in a poor light.

A recent report from Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) shows that wheat procurement is happening effectively in only three States — Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Punjab and Haryana have 1,734 and 365 procurement centres, respectively, but they do a better job than the 4,000 plus centres in UP.

If the procurement agencies do not actively buy in the coming season, there is risk of wheat prices falling sharply and hurting farm incomes.

Many problems

Lower procurement in UP is due to the failure of the State mechanism, says an official from the Food Corporation of India, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Procurement is mainly carried out by the State governments. In wheat, for instance, of the total procurement in a year, 85 per cent is bought by State agencies. But, if you see in UP, the State government doesn’t show interest. They have not developed the infrastructure. There are no proper roads for farmers to bring the produce to the centres and facilities inside the procurement centres are also bad; there is no electricity, no storage facility…”

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Farmers in UP face one more problem while selling to government agencies – delayed payment. According to Teresa John, Economist at Nirmal Bang Institutional Equities, who put out a report taking stock of UP’s agriculture and industrial situation last week, “Many small farmers in the State prefer to sell their produce to middlemen because of delayed payment, some of them complain of a delay of more than three months….”

Another reason for UP’s poor procurement is that it has let trade cartels function, says Pravesh Sharma, former MD of Small Farmers’ Agri Business Consortium. “The change in government in UP over last several years hasn’t ensured change in policies as the cartels that control the agriculture market have continued to function and get political patronage across party lines. Till the political support to existing trading practices is not withdrawn, we cannot expect farmer-friendly markets to emerge,” says SharmA.http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/up-wheat-farmers-face-a-grim-harvest-this-season/article9591484.ece/

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#Goodnews – Posco confirms scrapping Odisha project, acquired land for POSCO project under IDCO land bank

Posco’s letter is seen as the first official communication marking the scrapping of the project

rural, village, women, posco

The land acquisition was inordinately delayed due to agitation by the locals, which often took a violent turn
It’s official now that South Korean major has scrapped the plan to set up a 12-million tonne (mt) mill in Paradip, It has written to the state that it wants to surrender the allotted for the project.


It is the second big-ticket foreign direct investment (FDI) project to leave Odisha, after walked out of its project in 2013.


“We have received a letter from expressing its intention to surrender the land”, an official of the state industries department said.


Though all activity on the plant came to a halt two years ago, leading to speculations of the firm pulling out of the venture, both and the had denied it. Therefore, Posco’s letter is seen as the first official communication marking the scrapping of the project. had signed an agreement with the state in June, 2005, seeking 4,004 acres of to set up the project. The acquisition was delayed due to agitation by the locals, which often took a violent turn.


Finally, the could acquire 2,700 acres in 2013 for the firm to set up an 8-mt mill in the first phase. Of this, the managed to transfer 1,700 acres to


But before the work could start, the central amendment in the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act in January, 2015 sealed the fate of the project. The amended Act made it mandatory for to go through the auction route to get captive mines, dashing its hopes of getting an iron ore mine on a preferential basis according to the agreement. To make matters worse, the did not renew the tenure of the agreement, which expired in 2016.http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/posco-closes-last-chapter-in-odisha-project-117031700810_1.html

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Indian fishermen warn Australia against environmental impact ahead of Adani coal mine talks

 JAMES BENNETT

Noor Mohammad
PHOTO

Noor Mohammad had to relocate with his wife, two sons and their families when the Adani project started.

ABC NEWS: JAMES BENNETT

Fishermen in India say a local Adani project is harming them and killing off sea life, warning Australia to be wary as Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk prepares to decide whether to proceed with the Carmichael coal mine.

Ms Palaszczuk and eight regional mayors are preparing to sit down with the chairman of Adani Enterprises, Gautam Adani, ahead of the company deciding whether to proceed with the proposed mine.

The Queenslanders will be shown the Adani’s Gujarat port and power station, which itself has a chequered environmental record, of which the local fishermen said Australia should be wary.

Noor Mohammad — a fisherman in coastal Gujarat —said his home used to be in Mundra, where Adani’s port and power project now stands.

He was forced out when the Adani project started, and relocated with his wife, two sons and their families to a camp nearby.

But he and other fishermen, like Buddha Ismail, said the destruction of tidal mangroves and ash from coal burnt at the power station had damaged the fishing.

“The Adani project is harming us. Their coal dust and stream discharge are harming us,” Mr Mohammad said, adding he now caught a quarter of what he used to.

“There are no fish in the sea water near the coast. All living creatures are dead.”

Adani was heavily criticised for a series of environmental breaches during construction that included destruction of mangroves, failure to regulate the ash generated by the power plant and altering the flow of waterways to the fishing’s detriment.

At Hazira, another site on the Gujarat coast, early last year a court ordered the company to pay nearly $5 million in reparation for illegal construction work, which damaged the environment and deprived 80 fishing families of their access to the sea.

Mr Mohammad and Mr Ismail said based on their experiences Australia should be wary of Adani.

“From our side, we want to tell them that they should force [the] company to run away,” Mr Mohammad said.

“I want to suggest them to not allow an [Adani] plant there,” Mr Ismail said.

The ABC sought comment from Adani on measures it had taken to address the ash problem, identified in a key environmental report in 2013, but received no response before the deadline.

Mundra is slated to receive coal from the Queensland Carmichael mine if it goes ahead.

Adani said coal would help expand power generation, providing some jobs and critically, cheap electricity to 100 million Indians still without.

Despite their criticism, the fishermen both admitted they would see things differently if their sons worked with the company.

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-17/fishermen-warn-australia-against-adani-mine-environmental-impact/

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