Archive for June, 2013

Launching of “BENI” as a newspaper in Koshali: Dr. Arjun Purohit’s message

My heartiest congratulations to BENI publications in launching this new Koshali newspaper. Believe it or not,this is a historical moment in the sense that BENI’s will reach across length and breadth Koshal bringing pertinent news of our area in our own language. I have come across several newspapers in area, such as,Arji from Bhawanipatna,Agnisikha from Sambalpur , Paschimanchal from Rourkela, etc.,all great endeavours to accomplish the same goal; they all should be saluted. But BENI’s reach will be most extensive. All widely circulated newspapers,such as Dharitri,Sambad,Samaj,etc. in Odisha are based in coastal area,some having special editions for Sambalpur and Rourkela. They also have reporters from Koshal but editorial controls are in the head office. Occasionally, we also get Koshali language supplements from some of these publications.Why then must we have another Koshali newspaper against all odds ? Really,we have no choice. It is not prudent to leave your issues,your priorities,your aims and aspirations, your dreams, core values of your identity to left to be articulated by some body else. You should not see your image from somebody else’s mirror. Few years ago I met Dr.Arjan De Haan, a Dutch scholar who spent a few years in Odisha as a member of of a British NGO investigating inter-regional disparity. He has extensively published on this issue. When I asked him as what can be done to tackle this mammoth and chronic problem, especially when political power center in Odisha is so coastal Odisha focussed having scant interest towards other parts ? He replied,”I am astounded that there is not single viable newspaper which does not originate from Bhubaneswar/Cuttack area. In a democracy,silence is not golden. Do not ever think that in democracy,things are done because of logic or equity. You have to scream hard so that your voices will be hard. So the very first thing you have to do is to start your own newspaper.”(my paraphrase).

Surrendering editorial control to non-Koshalis can have disastrous consequences. A newspaper called Sambalpur Hiteishini was started under the patronage of Basudev Sudhal Dev,Raja of Bamra with editorship of Nilamoni Bidyaratna from coastal Odissa. The problem was that Sri Bidyaratna was unapologetic hater of Koshali language. In 1891,he published a Koshali poem KAHA GO DUTI KENTA KARASIGO by Madhusudan, with the following commentary attached to it:”Though Odia is the mother tongue of People of Sambalpur division, it is horribly distorted. It is true that the language has now improved in the civilised part of this society. But among the low class of this society, it has remained as distorted as before.Recently we obtained an ancient poem composed in Sambalpuri language, which we have published herewith for the information of the readers.”(Source: Paschima Odishara Giti Kabita edited by Sasanka Sekhar Panda,2004). This instance illustrates quite clearly a few salient points. This exhibits the utter contempt in which Sri Bidyaratna held for Koshali language. Secondly, he like many even today in coastal odisha never acknowledged that Koshali,not Odia, is the mother tongue of Koshal region.Thirdly, it also shows that Koshali poets have been composing poems but their work could not find any media for expressions. Koshali was was not only marginalised but also ridiculed as a distorted Odia. Political climate in those days also did not help the cause of Koshali. Intellectuals of Koshal region were actively involved to get the Sambalpur tract to get amalgamated to Bengal Presidency away from the Central Presidency.Therefore, cause to accentuate Odia was accepted to thwart the attacks of Bengali nationalists intent on disenfranchising Odia as a separate language distinct from Bengali, and many called Odia as their mother tongue , though they knew Koshali as their real mother tongue. Sambalpur Hiteishini was the only periodical in Koshal region heavily subsidised by Raja of Bamra, was at the forefront championing the cause of Odia, while actively suppressing Koshali. Hence to get their works published poets like Gangadhar Meher and Bhima Bhoi wrote exclusively in Odia. Very low literacy rate in the region was another reason why Koshali writers simply did not have any avenue for expression, because poor illiterate folks do not buy books.

What role BEN must play at this juncture of growth of Koshali ? The same as Utkal Dipika in Odia under the editorship of Gauri Shankar Roy,himself a domiciled Bengali in Odisha. Utkal Dipika, published in 1886, became the voice of Odia speaking people which challenged virulent attacks by well known personalities like Rajendralal Mitra, who argued that use of Odia in stead of Bengali schools would adversely impact learning of kids, and Kantilal Bhattacharya who wrote”Odia Swatantra Bhasha Noy”. We have to see that Koshali is recognised in the 8th schedule as soon as possible. My fervent hope is that just like BENI we will have many more publications in Koshali asserting our identity and reinvigorating our language. Therefore I urge all Koshali lovers join me in celebrating the launching of BENI at this crucial stage of our struggle. Jay Koshala.Jay Ma Samalei.

Arjun Purohit

PS: Ignore typos

Kosli news paper “BENI” will be released on 8th july

Following report is from the Samaja (courtesy Mr. Saket Sahu) :Samaj

June 29, 2013 at 10:42 am 1 comment

Balangir medical college and hospital to be set up soon

Following is a report from TNIE:


June 11, 2013 at 3:53 am 2 comments

The new Kalahandi: a summary of its progress and rice production

Following report is from

Standing in his paddy field that glistened in the afternoon sun, farmer Gouranga Rana had his worries: What would happen to his bumper harvest? Would he be able to sell it at the minimum support price announced by the state government? But the FCI godown was already full.

These are concerns any farmer would have. What makes Rana’s problem—and that of others in Bandigaon village in Jaypatna block—a happy one is that his village is part of Kalahandi, once a name that stood for hunger in one of the country’s most deprived regions. Now, as the Union Agriculture Ministry announced last month, Kalahandi ranks among the top 25 rice-producing districts of India.

Till the early 2000s, starvation deaths and distress migration were the norm here, with reports of families in distress selling off their children. One of the cases that made headlines was in 1985, when a 14-year-old tribal girl, Bonita, was sold by her sister-in-law, Phanas Punji, for Rs 40 so that she could feed her two starving children. Shocked, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the district and announced a development package called the KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) Development Scheme for the district. Like all government packages, this scheme was forgotten as funds dried up.

The change came in the form of the Upper Indravati Multipurpose Project, first conceived of in 1987-88. Since 2000, water from the project has reached six of the 13 blocks of Kalahandi, leaving in its wake green fields that this district could once only dream of. Of Kalahandi’s cultivated area of 1.9 lakh hectares, the project irrigates over 76,400 hectares. There are plans to extend the project to cover an additional 6,000 hectares in Golamunda block.

Kalahandi farmers now have two crop seasons every year. “It’s an unbelievable change. Nothing short of a miracle,” says Orissa’s Director of Agriculture and Food Production R Sant Gopalan who, till a few years ago, was the district magistrate of Kalahandi. “It shows what government irrigation and improved farm input can do to the fortunes of a region despised for its backwardness.”

“Water was all that Kalahandi needed and once it came, there was no looking back,” says Ashok Patnaik of local NGO Karrtabya.


Rana would know. Till about 12 years ago, Rana’s father used to get a meagre harvest of 23 quintals of paddy during monsoons on their six-acre land. “It was tough for us to survive then,” says Rana. Last year, he harvested around 60 quintals from his land during the rabi season alone despite pest attacks. “Now I have a pucca house. I can afford good education for my children,” says Rana, who has studied till class XII.

Like several thousand farmers in Kalahandi, he now grapples with a problem of plenty. The three-year average of Kalahandi’s rice production ending 2010-11 was 4,68,000 tonnes, compared with the three-year average of 82,000 tonnes for 1998-99. The year 2012-13 saw a new high, with rice production in the kharif season touching 4.89 lakh tonnes, with rabi expected to yield another 1.85 lakh tonnes, making it a total of 6.74 lakh tonnes, a record for Kalahandi so far. The per hectare yield in Kalahandi in 2012-13 has crossed 40 quintals, compared to the modest state average of 34.88 quintals.

With lush paddy fields on either side, a drive along the leafy stretch of National Highway No. 201 as it passes through Junagarh block is a pleasure, even in the searing summer. The picture isn’t any different in the blocks of Jaypatna, Koksara and Dharmagarh.

Chaitanya Nayak of Bandigaon village harvested 140 quintals of paddy on his seven acres in the last rabi season, double his produce in the previous kharif season. Ten years ago, he would have probably migrated out in search of a job. Nayak, a matriculate, says, “Earlier, we would often go hungry during the rabi season. Now most of the houses have refrigerators, coolers, dish antenna and motorcycles. In the last 10 years, I don’t remember seeing a dry paddy field in my area,” says Nayak, who rides a Hero Passion motorcycle and does aquaculture in a small pond besides his house. With water available in plenty, all the 300-odd families in Bandigaon have taken to farming in a big way.

Kalahandi’s transformation into the state’s rice-bowl has led to reverse migration, with rich farmers from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh now putting their money in the district’s fertile tracts. G Sreenu from East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh owns 20 acres in Dulukibandh village of Kalampur block and last year, reaped 1,100 quintals of paddy. He now has a three-bedroom house on the main road.

There are other visible signs of change. Last year, the first government engineering college came up in Kalahandi, one of only a dozen in the state.

District collector Govind Sethi says he has no doubt that the change is for real. “Though we will have to wait for the latest Census results to validate the change, the signs are all there. More children go to school, the district has seen more progress in education. The focus has shifted from hunger to better things,” he says.

Farm mechanisation has also taken off in a big way. Kalahandi has more power tillers (2,500) than any other Orissa district. With labourers in short supply, farmers are now renting expensive combined harvesters for Rs 2,300 an hour to harvest paddy.

As Kalahandi’s new fame has spread out, traders from Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are bringing in hundreds of automated paddy threshers to the district. From a handful of rice processing mills 10 years ago, now there are 82 active rice mills in Kalahandi. With so much paddy being produced, FCI, which had one paddy procurement centre in 1996, now has 50 centres in the district.


Kalahandi’s Congress MP Bhakta Charan Das, who is credited with getting water from Indravati to the district’s fields, says the success in farm production, coupled with more government spending in the roads and health sectors, have helped Kalahandi turn the corner. It also helped that the state government pitched in with crop loans and supplied quality seeds.

“The kind of poverty we had 15 years ago now seems a distant memory. Almost all the villages have good roads under government schemes. Most people have two-wheelers and every other house would have a dish antenna. Starvation is a thing of the past,” says Das. Besides, there are 10-12 branches of nationalised and private banks in the blocks. Prosperous blocks like Junagarh and Jaypatna now boast of half-a-dozen automobile showrooms.

Kalahandi’s long wait for a railway link with the state capital got over last year with a 30-km track between Lanjigarh and the main headquarter town of Bhawanipatna. Das now hopes the Bhawanipatna-Junagarh link would be through soon, giving farmers in the Junagarh sub-division a chance to take their produce by trains and get a better deal.

Rana, the farmer in Jaypatna block, says people in Kalahandi now have the blessing of “two Indras”. “There is Lord Indra during monsoons and then the Indravati project in the winter and summer seasons. We are indeed blessed.”

Jayalal Padhi, deputy director of agriculture of Junagarh sub-division, the area which has benefited the most from the project, recounts how his friends used to tease him as “Kalahandia” (man from Kalahandi) during his college days in neighbouring Bolangir district. “We used to be embarrassed then. Now if someone calls us Kalahandia, it’s a matter of pride,” he says.

 The Indravati project

Though initially estimated at Rs 208 crore in 1987-88, the project which dams the Indravati river and its tributaries to form a massive reservoir atop the mountains in Thuamul-Rampur block of Kalahandi, has now escalated to more than Rs 3,000 crore.

From the reservoir, water is transferred to Hati river in the Mahanadi river basin which then irrigates six of the 13 blocks of Kalahandi through a maze of canals and sub-canals running to hundreds of kilometres. The construction of the 52 km-long main left canal from the project’s barrage at Mangalpur ended in December last year while the main right canal with a length of 84 km is expected to end by March 2015.

 Green, but how green?

The water gushing into Kalahandi’s fields has brought with it problems of a different kind. While earlier, farmers used to grow pulses and millets such as ragi during the rabi season, most of them now grow only paddy throughout the year. “Kalahandi can have 35-40 types of crops a year. But the lack of crop diversification has led to a decline in soil quality and texture. So farmers have to use more fertilisers to retain productivity levels,” says Ashok Patnaik of local NGO Karrtabya.

Though more water has led to more productivity, it has also made the crops vulnerable to pest attacks and diseases. “For small farmers like us, it is difficult to survive by spending so much on paddy. Every year we have to deal with some kind of diseases,” says marginal farmer Uddhaba Sahu of Mangalpur village.

With labourers preferring to work under NREGA, farmhands are in short supply. Farmers like Sahu say they can’t afford the steep cost of automated farm equipment. Rising paddy production has also meant that farmers are forced to sell their produce below the minimum support price of Rs 1,250 for every quintal of paddy.

Without a planned drainage system, some areas face waterlogging. For the last several years, Indravati project officials had no schedule for water discharge and they continued to release water even when farmers did not need it. But this has been resolved to an extent since last year, with water flowing through canals and sub-canals. With fields hardly left to dry due to the continous irrigation, the area stinks during the monsoon as people defecate in the open.

Rising mechanisation has also led to a sharp drop in livestock population. With depleting livestock, farmers are dumping the straw into the irrigation canals, choking them.

The Land Ceiling Act has not stopped rich farmers from Andhra Pradesh from coming to Kalahandi and buying up lands of small and marginal farmers whom the irrigation project was meant to benefit. With farm input costs going up, many fear that small-time farmers would end up selling their land to the land sharks.

Officials say Kalahandi can be among India’s top-10 rice producing districts and yet not lose its soil quality if farmers are open to newer methods of cultivation. “One modern system of rice-growing is the System of Rice Intensification. Under SRI, farmers sow a small number of seeds and then transplant them into fields one by one, while controlling the water input. Through SRI, the productivity can go up by 30-40 per cent,” says Orissa’s Director of Agriculture and Food Production R Sant Gopalan.

June 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment



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