Archive for January, 2011

Govt plans a health insurance scheme that will cover for all Indians

Following is from The

A health insurance scheme that will cover every Indian is on the cards. A committee of experts appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and headed by K Srinath Reddy, chief of the Public Health Foundation of India, is working on a public-funded scheme, likely to be introduced in the 12th Five Year Plan, starting in 2012-13.

“We are looking at a scheme where people will pay premium depending on their income,” said Planning Commission member secretary Sudha Pillai.

For instance, the government may pay the entire premium for those below the poverty line. For the better off, the government’s contribution will diminish the higher the individual’s income.

This scheme is likely to cover not only hospitalisation expenses, but also treatment undergone at listed hospitals. Most private health insurance schemes cover only hospitalisation. It will also provide cover for conditions private schemes frequently do not — like heart ailments and pregnancy.  

The scheme also intends the Centre to pay a higher premium for women — across all sections. 

There is already a health insurance scheme under the Rashtriya Swasth Bima Yojana for BPL families. Close to half of 6 crore BPL families are covered under this scheme. In the next step, all those enrolled in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will be covered, followed by women enrolled in over 10 lakh angwanwadi centers around the country. 

According to the National Sample Survey Office, an Indian spends 80 % of his health expenses on buying medicine. The high cost of treatment makes health services unaffordable to many. 

Presently, over 90 % Indians are not covered by any public or private health insurance.

January 20, 2011 at 8:43 am Leave a comment

Long live “Kans mama”: A report on Bargarh Dhanu Jatra

Following is from The Telegraph

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 18: Maybe the white-clad Calcutta police should try out what “Kansa” is doing now in Bargarh in multicolour splendour to tame traffic rogues.

A moustachioed man decked out like an ancient king has been making the rounds of the town in western Orissa, sitting atop a caparisoned elephant and barking orders every now and then.

“ Hey, you! Stop, come here,” he beckons a truck driver on National Highway 6. The bewildered driver is fined Rs 500 for speeding and the potentate moves on with his colourful entourage.

A little later, he hauls up a businessman for keeping his premises untidy and orders him to pay Rs 100. The “transgressor” meekly obliges.

This is Kansa, the king who rules Bargarh-turned-Mathura during Dhanu Yatra, an annual theatrical extravaganza that re-enacts the story of the mythological tyrant who was eventually slain by his nephew, Lord Krishna.

Held around this time of the year, the 11-day yatra, possibly the world’s biggest open-air drama, turns the whole of Bargarh into a mobile stage.

While the town itself becomes the city of Mathura, the river Jeera symbolises Yamuna. Ambapali, located on the Jeera’s other bank, turns into Gopapura where Krishna was brought up. To be more precise, the story of Kansa, his death and the exploits of Krishna are enacted at 18 different locations in Bargarh and Ambapali during the yatra, which has become an integral part of western Orissa’s folk culture.

The uncle’s tragic end at the hands of Krishna, a symbolic victory of good over evil, notwithstanding, Kansa is the true hero of the yatra, his larger-than-life character keeping the audiences spellbound.

Striding across Bargarh like a colossus till his “death”, Kansa summons the high and mighty to his “durbar” and issues fiats that no one dares disobey. Even chief ministers have been known to do his bidding during the yatra, some discussing state matters with him.

In the early 1990s, the then chief minister, Biju Patnaik, flew down to Bargarh in a helicopter following summons from the demon king.

It is all good-natured fun. Even senior government officials play along with Kansa, lending a touch of reality to his aura. In the process, sometimes long-standing civic problems like garbage-clearing and erratic water supply in Bargarh get solved.

The man bringing Kansa alive on the Dhanu Yatra stage is a 38-year-old health department employee, Hrushikesh Bhoi, whose huge whiskers and boisterous laughter appear tailor-made for the character.

Making his debut as Kansa in 2008, Bhoi has gathered a fan following, much like his idol, Gopal Sahu, the policeman who played the character for over 22 years.

After each performance, Bhoi makes it a point to visit Puri to offer his apologies to Lord Jagannath for heaping calumny upon Krishna and conspiring to kill him during the yatra.

Dhanu Yatra, which was organised for the first time in 1948 to celebrate the country’s independence and the end of British rule that was often compared to Kansa’s tyrannical regime, is not just about drama.

It is also an occasion to showcase western Orissa’s kaleidoscopic culture, especially its dance forms, with the king himself playing the patron. Dance performances are held daily at his court during the yatra to regale visitors.

Kansa is dead, long live Kansa! 

January 19, 2011 at 1:07 pm Leave a comment

Starvation death continues in Naveen Patnaik’s kingdom

Following is a PTI report:

Bhubaneswar, Jan 18 (PTI) The National Human Rights Commission today asked Orissa government to submit a detailed report on health, education and public distribution delivery system in Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput region after 12 children in that area died allegedly due to starvation.

The rights body issued the direction at its camp sitting here while disposing a case of alleged starvation death of 12 children in Nabarangpur and Balangir districts in 2010.

The issue was taken up by the NHRC which conducted an investigation through its special rapporteur Damodar Sarangi last year.

Besides NHRC chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan, three other members disposed the matter at the camp sitting.

Though the state government in its report to the NHRC claimed that the death of 12 children in KBK region was not due to starvation, the Commission refused to accept the argument, NHRC secretary K S Mani said.

January 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Eleven new farmer suicides haunt western Orissa

Following is a NDTV report:

Bhubaneswar In a small village in Orissa’s Sambalpur district, in a small house, a family looks to its neighbours for support. 61-year-old Shukla Chand killed himself by drinking pesticide. In this part of Western Orissa, this has become a frighteningly familiar story. Since November, 11 farmers from here have killed themselves.

Farmers have been catapulted from one crisis to another in Orissa since 2009. Floods, drought, and then exceptionally heavy rainfall last year before the harvest. The deaths of 100 farmers have officially been registered as suicides. The state government says it wasn’t their failed crops that drove them to their death.

For farmers whose crops were wiped out by pre-harvest rains, the Centre has sanctioned Rs. 400 crore for Andhra Pradesh and another Rs. 600 crore for Maharashtra. No compensation for Orissa has been announced so far.

The state government, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal, has offered to pay farmers Rs. 400 per acre for rain-fed areas and Rs. 800 per acre for irrigated land – only if the farmers can prove he has lost his entire crop. But farmers point out they invest at least Rs. 9,000 per acre for their paddy crop.  So the compensation being offered is worthless.

For farmers like Shukla Chand, it seems like there’s no one on their side. His suicide note says after his last crop of paddy failed just before the harvest, the loans he owed seemed insurmountable.  He had cultivated eight acres of paddy with an initial investment of Rs. 80,000.  He then took a bank loan of five lakh to buy a tractor, and another three lakh from private money lenders. When heavy rains destroyed his standing crop in November last year, he could no longer cope.

“The Centre and state are playing a cruel joke on our farmers. The policy to compensate for losses due to calamities has not kicked in. There are thousands of farmers like Shukla Chand who are not dead as yet, but on the verge of death,” says Saroj, the leader of a local cooperative of farmers.

January 18, 2011 at 8:38 am 1 comment

An example of Orissa govt.’s apathy towards western Orissa;Where are the WODC sponsored medical colleges?

Following is from the TOI:

BHUBANESWAR: Few of the proposed seven medical colleges in the state have come up till date. Three medical colleges were proposed in 2004 for western Orissa, facilitated by Western Orissa Development Council (WODC), but they are yet to see the light of day. Other subsequent proposals are still in very early stages.

The planning and coordination department sanctioned Rs 10 crore each for medical colleges in Rourkela, Jaring (Kalahandi district) and Balangir and the state government had provided 25-acre land each to these proposed colleges.

Officials said the proposed medical college at Balangir has faced a dead-end. After WODC advertised seeking private partnership for the proposed colleges, there were two responses. But both the parties failed to qualify in the technical expertise criteria.

Before this, three private parties, selected for Balangir college, quit at various stages. First, GSL Trust of Andhra Pradesh was selected for medical colleges at Balangir and Rourkela and a MoU was signed on January 31, 2004. But the MoU was cancelled since the trust did not commence work. The government signed another MoU with Sri Balaji Educational and Charitable Public Trust on October 6, 2006 for Balangir. After its delay in the start of work, the MoU was cancelled and RVS Educational Trust was selected as a private sponsor. The trust expressed its inability on February 17, 2010 to execute the project.

Work for the medical college at Jaring in Kalahandi, being undertaken by Selvam Educational and Charitable Trust, Tamil Nadu, is under way, after a MoU was signed on January 30, 2004. A 500-bed hospital was supposed to function by January 30, 2008, (five years from the date of MoU). But as of now the hospital is ready in part. While a building for the 300-bed hospital, three operation theatres and a seven-bed ICU is ready, the hostel buildings are yet to be ready.

“The outcome of the inspection by the Medical Council of India in May 2008 was not satisfactory. The trust filed a fresh application before the MCI on November 30, 2010, and the team visited the site once again in April-May,” a senior health department official said. Construction of the Rourkela college is being undertaken by Vigyan Bharati Charitable Trust after the government signed a MoU on July 4, 2008. Construction work is on. WODC officials are, however, optimistic. “Barring the Balangir college, the other two projects at Rourkela and Jaring are doing reasonably well. They should be commissioned as early as 2012,” said WODC chief executive officer Aswini Mishra.

The government is helping the Sahyog Healthcare and Research Foundation of India to open a 50-seat medical college and 150-bed hospital in Keonjhar. A MoU was signed on November 27, 2010. “We are waiting for the government to hand over possession of the land. Within six weeks after that we will commence work,” said Sahyog trustee Debasi Sahoo.

Similarly, there is proposal for MCL to start a medical college in Talcher. Besides, Mata Amritamayi Charitable Trust has shown interest in opening a medical college in the state while ESI is planning another medical college near Chandaka on the outskirts of the state capital. The state government has also decided to approach Nalco and SAIL to open medical colleges here.

January 16, 2011 at 7:50 pm Leave a comment

All about Gandhamardan’s healing touch

Following items are from The Telegraph:

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 28: A trekker’s delight and a treasure trove for rare medicinal plants, Gandhamardan Hill Range is famous for its two shrines of Hari-Shankar and Nrusimhanath.

Affordable and reachable both by rail and road, the region could be a perfect getaway for you this winter.

While Nrusimhanath is situated at the Bargarh end of the 6,000 hectare range, Hari-Shankar is at the Balangir side. Hari-Shankar is 40km away from Kantabanji on the Titlagarh-Raipur railway stretch and 90km from Balangir town.

The most interesting part of your trip should be the trek from Hari-Shankar to Nrusimhanath through the forest. It could take as much as six hours to cover the 15km stretch.

Hari-Shankar on the southern slope of the Gandhamardan Hill Range is unique because of its shrine of both Vishnu and Shiva. The entire hill range has more than 20 perennial streams.

While there are forest rest houses (FRHs) at Hari-Shankar and Nrusimhanath with four and two rooms respectively available in the range of Rs 100-Rs 250 a night, a budget hotel built by Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) at Hari-Shankar has air conditioned rooms for Rs 1,100-Rs 1,200 a night.

Budget hotels at Balangir town are available in the range of Rs 400-Rs 800 a night.

Balangir divisional forest officer (DFO) Rajkishore Sahu said: “People Chhattisgarh come to Hari-Shankar by trekking the entire way. The deer park between the temple and forest rest house (FRH) now has 200 deer. At Hari-Shankar, there is also a very beautiful herbal garden with 300 varieties of plants.”

Sahu said there are 300 separate plots dedicated to 300 different varieties of plants at the garden. Some of these plants are very rare in these parts.

“The herbal garden near Nrusimhanath contains 150 varieties of plants, but they are not planted in the way in which the Hari-Shankar thing has been done,” he added.

If you have a problem with the 15-km trek from Hari-Shankar to Nrusimhanath, you could opt for the road via Paikmal, taking which you could reach Nrusimhanath in two hours.

Though there are no big animals like elephants and tigers in the forest, you could encounter leopards, hyena, peacock, flying squirrel, monkeys, snakes, bear and wild boar.

“The facilities extended by the temple administration and the forest and ITDC people are good and one can enjoy the stay with the entire family,” said Mrutyunjay Tripathy, a state government employee who visited Gandhamardan Hill Range last year.

According to the Ramayana, while bringing the entire Gandhamardan range from the Himalayas to treat Lakshman with Sanjivanee, Hanuman, the valorous monkey god, broke some parts of the mountain and the pieces fell at the place where today’s Gandhamardan stands with its treasure of fragrant medicinal plants.

The hill range is composed of a cluster of hills with altitudes varying between 600 and 1,005 metres above the sea level. Bender, Butel, Chalidilli, Chhatradandi Gandhamardan, Potpani and Thuta are the prominent hills in this range. The range stands as a natural barrier on the border of Balangir and Bargarh districts.

“The forest in the hill range comes under the tropical moist deciduous type. Due to its diversified topography with 22 perennial streams, the region provides an ideal environment for the growth of both plants and animals. However, these resources are under severe threat due to over-exploitation including collection of firewood, fodder, medicinal plants and heavy incidence of grazing. Out of the 1,076 species of plants found in Bargarh district, a total of 850 species of vascular plants belonging to 540 genera under 138 families are available here,” said ecologist Prasad Dash.

“Of the 28 endemic medicinal plants found in the Eastern Ghats, seven are found in Gandhamardan alone. Dominance of phanerophytes indicates a tropical moist and humid climate. The top flat plateau of the hills running through the length of Gandhamardan is covered lush grasslands,” he said.

A variety of rare and endemic hill stream fish are also available here. Due to the rich floral diversity, a large number of honey bees and birds are found here. Because of the presence of a variety of plants, a large variety of butterflies are also found here,” Dash added.

But the hill range is most famous for its medicinal plants and is also known as an “ayurvedic garden”.

More than 400 plant species were found in the area with medicinal properties. Among them, Asparagus racemosus, Celastrus paniculata, Chlorophytum arundinaceum, Costus speciosus, Curculigo orchioides, Curcuma angustifolia, Gloriosa superb, Gymnema sylvestre, Plumbago zeylanica, Rubia cordifolia and Tinospora cordifolia were harvested in bulk for preparation of medicines by local people.

Unsustainable collection of the above medicinal plants has placed them in threatened and vulnerable categories in Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) of the state. Some medicinal plants such as Asparagus gonoclados, Enicostema littorale, Pimpinella heyneana, Garcinia xanthochymus, Radenmanchera xylocarpa, Embelia basal, Symphorema polyandrum, Vernonia anthelmintica, Xanthoxylum rhetsa, Cordia macleodii, Litsea glutinosa, Pterocarpus marsupium and Schrebera swietenioides, which were abundant at one point, are now rarely seen and come under the threatened category of medicinal plants in Orissa.

January 15, 2011 at 8:05 am Leave a comment

Eleven-day Dhanu Jatra begins in Bargarh

Following is from

BARGARH: Curtains went up for the 11-day ‘Dhanu Yatra’, considered the biggest open air theatre of Asia, in Bargarh today.

 With the central theme of this festival borrowed from the ‘Krishna Leela and Mathura Vijay’, the enactment on day one begins with wedding of his sister Devaki with Basudev besides Kansa’s accession to the throne and concludes with ‘Kansa Badha’ at the hands of nephew Lord Krishna.

After the marriage, a confident Kansa moves towards the Durbar of King Ugrasen, his father and dethrones him to capture the kingdom marking the beginning of his tyrannical rule. But the joy of marriage and the pride of his accession to the throne for the demon King is short-lived.

While he moves around atop a caparisoned elephant in a procession along with the newly-wed couple, a divine voice warns Kansa of his impending death at the hands of the eighth child born to Devi and Basudev. The warning is enough for Kansa to put his sister Devaki and her husband Basudev in jail.

 Interestingly, the day one saw the scene shifting from Ramji Mandir in Talipada where celestial wedding of Devaki and Basudev is solemnised, dethroning and accession to the throne besides warning by divine voice at Hatpada and imprisonment of Devaki and Basudev at the makeshift prison at Radha Krushna Temple at Hatpada.

 The entire Bargarh municipal limits, spread over 5 square km, turns into a stage and every citizen plays a role.

The geographical setting of Bargarh municipal limits also conforms to Mathura, where King Kansa ruled. The river Jeera represents the  Yamuna. Ambapali village across the Jeera turns into Gopapur where Krishna is brought up. The festival which is a synthesis of stage, theatre and cinema is held for seven to 11 days preceding the Pousa Purnima.

Thanks to Mr.Surendra Kumar Hota for the following pictures:

January 10, 2011 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

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