Posts filed under ‘Poverty and Hunger in Koshal region’

Couple die of starvation in Balangir district

Following report is from express-buzz.com:

PATNAGARH: Starvation has reportedly claimed two more lives in western Odisha. In a span of 13 hours, two deaths were reported in a family in Sargimunda village in Kandhenjhula gram panchayat of Belpada block in Balangir district. The two have been identified as Bishnu Majhi (42) and his 37-year-old wife Parbati. Bishnu was a migrant labourer. He had planned to migrate this year too but with Parbati taking ill, he had to cancel the plan.

While the five-member family comprising the couple and their three sons Katha (17), Tikelal (14) and Laba (9) had no other source of income, their eldest son Katha availed of a loan of ` 10,000 from a labour ‘sardar’ for treatment of his mother before leaving for Andhra Pradesh to work in a brick kiln.

But the loan money was not enough for treatment of Parbati and maintenance of the family. Sans food and treatment, Parbati died on December 8.

The following day, immediately after Bishnu completed Parbati’s final rites, he complained of illness and had to be admitted to the Patnagarh sub-divisional hospital. He breathed  his last on December 9 night.

Villagers said that the couple were not keeping well for a long time due to malnutrition.  The family has reportedly not received any BPL rice for the last three months.

The Belpada tehsildar Abhimanyu Majhi met the couple’s children on Tuesday to find out if they are covered under any social security measures.

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December 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm Leave a comment

Another ‘starvation’ death in Western Odisha

Following is a report from expressbuzz.com:

DEOGARH: Starvation reportedly claimed  another life in western Odisha. Close on the heels of death of three persons due to starvation in Kuliadangri village in Nuapada district, Jatra Khilar (60) of San Dangaghat village under Reamal  block of Deogarh died of starvation on Sunday morning.

The incident came to light after Jatra’s son Prasanna Khilar lodged a complaint in Reamal police station about the death of his father due to starvation.As per reports, Jatra was residing in the village along with his wife Chandri for the last 17 years while their only son Prasanna was residing in their ancestral village at Pendrakhol under the same gram panchayat.The elderly couple were residing in a makeshift shed after their house was destroyed during the last monsoon and eking out a living by begging. They were allegedly deprived of old age pension and other government benefits.

Sources said even as they ran from pillar to post to get financial assistance, it yielded no response. However, assistant engineer of Reamal block Bhramarbar Samal said the death was due to prolonged illness and not starvation.Police have sent the body for autopsy.

December 5, 2011 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

Drought in Padampur subdivision forcing migration of people as laborers

Following is a report from the Sambad (Sambalpur edition):

December 3, 2011 at 10:57 am 2 comments

Migration of labourers from western Odisha

Following are some articles taken from different news papers:

22 labour contractors from AP held in Bolangir

Bolangir police has apprehended about 22 labour ‘contractors’ from Andhra Pradesh at Kantabanji, about 400 km from here.

Special squad of the Labour Department had conducted a raid on the hotel they were staying in and taken them into custody. They were alleged to have not carried valid documents for taking labourers from western Odisha districts with them.

Kantabanji in Odisha’s Bolangir is known as major centre for interstate migration of labourers. According to a Labour Department officer, the Andhra Pradesh residents were staying in a lodge and were mobilising their local agent to send batches of labourers to work for them. The labour ‘contractors’ were charged under Section 371, 374, 367, 368 and 420 of IPC.

“Usually those who require labour force in Andhra Pradesh don’t come to Odisha to take labourers with them. They had probably come to Kantabanji to streamline groups of labour agents who would have been assigned with task to send labourers on a later stage,” said Umi Daniel, an expert on migration issues.

Mr. Daniel said sending labourers to work in other State is a cumbersome process if provisions of Interstate Workmen Act are followed scrupulously.

“According to provisions, a local labour contractor has to register him with district labour office. He will have to furnish details of labourers to be sent to other State. Other details such as wage, mode of transportation, address of destination point and other facilities are also submitted. But these processes are hardly followed that leads to torture of poor labourers at their workplaces,” he said. At Kantabanji, unofficial estimate says, the volume of annual labour trade will not be less than Rs. 70 crore.

This year, the population of migrating labourers from western Odisha district is likely to swell in comparison to previous district due to imminent drought like situation.

Crop failure

“Bolangir has witnessed about 90 per cent of crop failure this year. Getting migrant labourers from hinterlands of western Odisha district would be very easy.

Failure of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has made lower middleclass more vulnerable.

This year, many first timers will be drafted into existing force of migrant labourers,” said Balgopal Mishra, a prominent Western Odisha leader.

Mr. Mishra said there should be an immediate action plan to prevent “distress” migration to other States.

Lakhs of migrant labourers especially from poverty stricken KBK region of Orissa go to Rangareddy, Nalgonda and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh every year to work in brick kilns.

According to an estimate 3,46,471 and 2,78,641 labourers from Kalahandi and Bolangir had gone to Andhra Pradesh as brick kiln workers in 2008-09.

Other two districts Nuapada and Sonepur of Odisha also send sizeable migrant labourer population to Andhra Pradesh.

However, officially total number of labourers from Odisha migrating to Andhra Pradesh hardly crosses one lakh.

Migration: Middlemen operate sans licence

BARGARH: Kalahandi, Balangir, Nuapada, Sonepur and drought-prone Padampur sub- division of Bargarh district register the highest migration. Families move out lock, stock and barrel after harvesting season only to return before Nuakhai the following year.

 Those who migrate are poor peasants, marginal farmers and landless people whose sordid tales of torture and exploitation year after year remain unheard.

With government welfare measures failing to trickle down to them and the district administration insensitive to their plight, the labourers fall prey to labour contractors.

In Gaiselet block in Padampur sub-division, the district administration virtually has no record or inkling of migration. The survey undertaken in four out of 12  panchayats of the block, covering 30 villages, revealed that a record number of 11,220 people migrated from the villages in search of livelihood after Nuakhai this year. Among those who have migrated, 9,396 are working in Odisha while the rest have moved out of State, as per a survey conducted by a youth club here.

 Worse, no labour contractor has been issued licence to export labourers from the district, a fact corroborated by District Labour Officer RK Behera. No survey has been undertaken by the district administration to ascertain the number of migrants.

The DLO said no licence had been issued to any labour contractor to recruit manpower from the district. He even feigned ignorance about any migration from the district.

No check on migration here

SONEPUR: Normalcy may have been restored in Kantabanji after Friday’s unrest but it has exposed the insensitivity of the authorities towards trafficking of labourers.

It was for the first time that the police have come down with an iron hand on labour agents from the region. The modus operandi has always been pretty same — pay handsome amount as advance and on reaching the workplace in some alien land they are forced to work for long hours under inhumane conditions. Unable to bear the barbaric torture the labourers escape at times leaving behind their legitimate dues and even family on several occasions.

With the district administration unmindful of labourers’s  plight and the District Labour Office (DLO) neither proactive in registering labour contractors nor keeping a track of the number of people migrating, the agents take all the liberty.

Sonepur District Collector Gagan Bihari Swain had written to all sarpanches to notify in case of more than five persons migrating or being recruited by labour contractors. Under such circumstances they should obtain permission from the District Labour Officer. More than 500 people from Mohoda, Babupali, Julunda, Patharkhandi, Aamamunda under Julunda panchayat in Dungripali police limits besides the  Bankigirdi villages and Kapasira have allegedly been lured to migrate while official records put the number at 28 from Menda and Nagpali.

DLO Madan Mohan Paik said steps were being taken to prevent trafficking of labourers from the district.


November 20, 2011 at 8:23 am Leave a comment

No effect of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) on Balangir migration

Following is a report from HT:

Of the 72 students of Budhamunda Village Primary School in Belpada block, just half line up for morning prayers in their crumpled, unwashed uniform.

What about the rest?

“Many of my friends have migrated with their parents to work in brick kilns. I will also follow them in a few days,” said Dipakanta Pradhan (10), a student of class 3.

The scene was the same at an anganwadi (mother and child) centre in Tentulimunda village in the same block, more than 400 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, where just eight out of 25 children wait for their food to be served.

About 200 out of the 247 families in Tentulimunda migrated to work in brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh last year. This year, villagers said more would follow because of acute drought in the region and no sign of government-sponsored programmes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).

Surveys by Western Orissa Migration Network (WOMN), a consortium of voluntary organisations, have revealed more than 150,000 people from Balangir migrate every year to work in brick kilns and construction sites of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. At least 45,000 of them are in the age group 1-14, and a majority of them do jobs specially designed for them in the kilns.

Talking to HT, Orissa women and child development minister Anjali Behera said she would ask the collector and SP of the district to ensure that neither the parents nor the children migrated.

“I will look into the matter seriously,” Behera said.

Balangir collector SN Dey said he was not aware of anybody migrating from the district so far. “We have told the people to wait for the poverty line survey, which will start soon. Programmes like mid-day meal (MDM), the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and MGNREGS are going on smoothly in the district,” he said.

Tentulimunda looks barren. Farmers have left many unharvested paddy fields for their cattle to graze because there is no point harvesting them.

According to the agriculture department figures, in most areas up 75% of the crop has been damaged due to severe drought.

“We have no option to migrate,” said Abhimanyu Bag (40).

What about the MGNREGS? They are few and far between, he said.

Last year, there were just two works. However, people prefer not to work in them. “Payment is very late. It takes five months to get your dues,” he said.

In Balangir, the CBI is probing irregularities in the MGNREGS in response to a Supreme Court order.

The migration of families, along with the children, defeats the purpose of central government-funded programmes like MDM and the ICDS in Balangir, ranked as one of the country’s most backward districts.

The allocation for MDM and the ICDS in 2010-11 in the district was more than R30 crore.

According to the 2001 census, Balangir has a population of more than 1.3 million, of whom more than 261,000 are covered under MDM and another 200,000 under the ICDS.

The 2011 census says Balangir has a provisional population of more than 1.6 million.

However, the figures of children covered under MDM and the ICDS stand unchanged.

Anganwadi workers maintain migration notebooks for listing the migrant families.

Teachers too usually mark migrant children absent. However, they complain most often their superiors put pressure on them not to do so because that would reflect the failure of MDM.

“So we strike a balance. If 50 students migrate, we list 20 just to save our jobs,” said a teacher on anonymity.

November 10, 2011 at 7:33 am Leave a comment

Readers’ reaction on an article published in Times of India about “Hunger deaths in Balangir district of Orissa”

Here is the link to the article and comments on it:

Readers’ opinions (3)

Post a Comment
shankar balangir 30/04/2010 at 11:00 pm
The politicians are solely responsible for this damn thing. these hell scoundrels hv done nothing except corrupting themslves. they dont fear God. and the hell political parties always work for own profit. people are lazy. go do some work instead eating the sand of the river.
Satyajit Balangir 30/04/2010 at 06:26 pm
Bloody Orissa govt. busy in developing only 60 miles corridor of cuttack to puri and criminally neglecting western orissa for last 7 decades..particularly Balangir..God will definitely punish these asshole politicians for deliberately killing these innocent people..Request NGO’s 2 plz help my people
Vighnesh Bhubaneswar 30/04/2010 at 06:23 pm
When will the administration do something….ironically the ruling party was busy organising a Bandh…??

May 3, 2010 at 6:24 pm 1 comment

Ailing Sambalpuri (Dalkhai) dancing star’ “Gurubari Mirdha” struggles for survival

Following is a TOI report:

SAMBALPUR: She had held the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi spellbound with her dance performance when she was just 16.

Forty years later, the dancer is old and helpless, living in an incomplete Indira Awas Yojana house with her husband. She does not even get two square meals a day. Her husband, who suffers from a fractured leg, is also not in a position to earn a living. The ailing couple lives at the “mercy” of locals.

The extremely talented Sambalpuri (Dalkhai) dancer, Gurubari Mirdha, is today bedridden in her house in M Gandpali under the Bijepur police station of Bargarh district, about 85 km from Sambalpur. She wiles away the hours reminiscencing her halcyon days. Indira Gandhi, who had a great fetish for Orissa art and culture, could not resist the temptation of joining her on stage when she was performing in the Capital in 1968. The turning point in her career, felt the dancer, was this performance in Delhi. “I was taken aback by the Prime Minister’s spirited move. She joined me on stage. I was a little nervous but she made me feel very comfortable. She held my hand and danced with me. Later, we photographed together,” recalled the dancer.

Gurubari, who is now 56, has received numerous awards and citations from organisations like the Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi, Adivasi Bhasa Sanskruti Academy, Mathkhai Utsav, Bolangir and Lokmohotsav Sambalpur.

 She also gave many performances on Doordarsan.

Her room is stacked with certificates and mementoes that talk about her glorious past. “I received several awards and mementoes during my 40-year career, but these are now meaningless as I am starving,” she said. “Earlier we could manage with my husband’s earnings. He was a daily labourer but the fracture has rendered him jobless,” complained Gurubari.

Good Samaritans in her locality extended a helping hand to the couple to tide over their financial crisis. “But the money given to her is not sufficient,” said retired MD of OHPC, K K Supkar. “She needs a regular income.”

Neighbour Biranchi Sahu said, “We feel proud to belong to her village. We try to help her whenever possible. But the government should do something long-term in her interest.” Sahu felt the Indira Awas Yojana accommodation given to her by the government, can be completed for one, with provision for water and sanitation.

When contacted, district collector, Bargarh, expressed ignorance about the dancing star’s plight but assured he would look into the matter. “Since I am new to the district I have not much idea about her condition. But I will take necessary steps to alleviate her suffering,” promised Bhabagrahi Mishra, the collector.

May 1, 2010 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment

How hunger kills hundreds in Balangir

Following is a TOI report:
BALANGIR: Enter any village under Belpada block of Balangir district and see how people battle for their existence. And how hunger can kill hundreds. Starving and emaciated, villagers often succumb to their circumstances.

The scenes in these villages will leave anyone speechless. Barring a few who own land, most villagers depend on nature. They collect forest produce for their sustenance.

TOI visited Bileimara village, 17 km from the block headquarters and met Bhaktaram Bariha, who is 65. For the past 10 years he has been bed-ridden. His spouse had died of some mysterious disease years ago. What is most pitiable is that he was forced to marry off his two daughters to the same man.

His son-in-law had promised to look after him and so Bariha gave away his second daughter, too, in marriage to this man. Today, all four stay together, the daughters look after the father and husband. Bariha does not get old age pension. Neither does he hold any entitlement card which can buy him subsidized rice at Rs two a kg.

Early morning all of them, barring Bariha, go to the forest to collect char, seeds and mahua flowers. They return home by evening. During their absence, Bariha’s granddaughter Srimati, who is five, looks after him. “I can’t remember any government official visiting this village. I was just a kid when someone came here and talked to some villagers and then vanished. We are fed up requesting the sarpanch to give us a BPL card or an IAY house. Every time he tells us that some procedure has to be followed and then the matter is forgotten,” said his daughter.

Sometime back, he developed a swelling on his neck. He sent his son to the nearby PHC to call a doctor, but he did not come. Finally, his son-in-law called a quack, whose medicines worsened his condition.

The life of Khatra Bariha, 65, of Rengtasil village, mirrors the despondency of his village. He lost his wife after two months of their marriage. A few years later, he lost his two sisters. He had lost his parents when he was young. A stark example of peripatetic life, Khatra constructed a thatched house on the outskirts of the village.

The house is closed from all sides. Every time he goes to the village to fetch water and other essential items, he breaks the thatched wall and then reshapes it. His only possessions are perhaps two bowls and some clothes. Khatra said he asked the sarpanch to get him a BPL card, but the sarpanch asked to him to prove his identity. He collects forest produce and exchanges them in village shops for rice and other items!

Bariha and Khatra are just metaphors of a larger canvas. For these 800-odd poverty-stricken villagers, the forest is a source of sustenance. Adhikar, a voluntary organization, has submitted a list to the government giving names of villagers who are living in this pathetic condition. But there has been no action yet. Jatin Patra, who surveyed the areas and prepared the list, said there’s been no development in the villages in the past 20 years. “Except improving the condition of some roads, there’s been no visible development,” he said.

Five of a family recently died of hunger in Chabripali village under Khaprakhol block. But even this painful incident failed to move the administration.

May 1, 2010 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

Breakdown in Balangir:families continues to suffer from hunger and poverty

Following is a report from http://www.hindustantimes.com and Print Edition:

As one of India’s 300 million officially poor people in one of its most impoverished districts, Kantamani Nag bought 25 kg of rice every month at Rs 2 per kg — five times cheaper than market rates — a fine example of the world’s most sprawling subsidised-foodgrain network.

Of the sprawling cradle-to-grave national anti-poverty effort on which the Centre will spend more than Rs 1.18 lakh crore in 2010-11 to create a more inclusive, just India, only the Public Distribution System worked for the Nags — sort of.

Nag (40) kept half the rice for his wife and three children. He sold the rest, creating what is now unofficially called “subsidised-rice income” for the poorest in this western corner of Orissa, where the official poverty line is Rs 356 per month, or about the cost of an appetiser in a metropolitan five-star hotel. When Nag, wizened beyond his years, sold his subsidised rice (sometimes tea leaves and soap as well), it sent him into a death spiral that appears to play out like this across Balangir:

The rice that isn’t sold typically lasts 10 days or less. The family works odd jobs or begs rest of the month. Weakened without enough food, they fall ill for about 100 days each year. They borrow money to pay medical expenses. To repay the loan, they join the 100,000 who migrate to brick kilns and stone mines in Andhra Pradesh.

When they return, they are weaker; many die, not by starvation but from chronic hunger and malnutrition.

Nag’s family ended up working in the kilns and mines for six months every year. These trips took a toll on their weakened bodies. They took more loans to meet medical expenses. The last loan was Rs 20,000 at 10 per cent interest.

“After a time they found it difficult to repay,” said Kasturi Nag (42), Kantamani’s sister-in-law, who narrated their tale on a warm spring day in their western Orissa village of Kurenbahali. “As a result, they started eating less food.”

Growing, gnawing hunger

Breakfast for the Nags was a handful of puffed rice and tea without milk. Lunch was pakhal, watery rice, with an onion.

Dinner wasn’t very different — on the few days the Nags had any.

Hindustan Times recorded similar patterns in journeys to 55 families in 27 villages in Balangir, where 62 per cent of all families officially live below the poverty line across 6,575 sq km, more than four times larger than the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

In interviews, many officials in Balangir confirmed that they were witnessing a deepening cycle of poverty.

It could explain how millions of hungry people are slipping through the cracks nationwide; how shoddy implementation imperils well-meaning, ambitious national anti-hunger programmes; how mothers become malnourished, giving birth to more malnourished children than anywhere else in the world.

Every year, 3,000 pregnant women are admitted to Balangir’s hospitals. “More than 50 per cent are anaemic, malnourished,” said Dr Purnachandra Sahu, Balangir’s chief district medical officer. Theoretically, help is available, through the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the world’s largest programme for nutritional and school needs of children younger than six, administered through 1.4 million centres nationwide.

Though 80 million children are theoretically covered, one in two Indian children is malnourished, the world’s worst rate.

In Balangir, there are free vitamins, proteins and medicine available.

The Nags appear to have used these centres at some point. The evidence: Their children are alive (though their condition isn’t clear). For severely malnourished children, there’s Rs 500 to be had from the Chief Minister’s relief fund.

Sahu opened registers of Nutrition Day — held on the 15th of each month to provide dietary support to children — to show how about 3,000 malnourished children under age six are brought to Balangir’s 14 primary health centres every month. Sahu said 53 per cent of all children at his centres are malnourished.

In 2009, official ICDS figures say 87 children, or 0.04 per cent suffered the most severe malnourishment, grade IV, which means they needed urgent medical attention.

“The children are malnourished because in most cases the mothers are malnourished,” said Pratibha Mohanty, Balangir district’s social welfare officer.

The death rate of children under six is worsening. In 2006, 48 children died in every 1,000, rising to 52 the next two years; in 2009 it was 51, according to district health records. Balangir’s cycle of poverty continues into adulthood.

Most patients who come to Balangir hospitals today are anaemic, have gastrointestinal infections or are directly malnourished, according to district health records.

Stopping migration would certainly help already weak villagers. Theoretically, the Nags need not have migrated.

The world’s largest jobs-for-work programme, the National Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), is supposed to help people like them, assuring them 100 days of employment every year. The national NREGS budget for 2010-11: Rs 40,000 crore, more than a third the size of the defence budget.

Here in Kurenbahali, there were no NREGS jobs in 2009. Thus far, there’s no sign of work this year either. “People would not migrate if NREGS works are done regularly through the year,” said Paleswar Bhoi (35), a villager.

Slippery statistics

Instead of the required 100 days, Orissa has provided no more than 35 days of work each year. Across most of Balangir’s 1,792 villages, NREGS work isn’t available for a full month in a year, HT’s inquiries revealed.

Sanjay Kumar Habada, project director for the district rural development agency, has another set of figures to share: NREGS projects across Balangir employ more than 30,000 people, whom the administration pays “We pay them Rs 30 lakh every day,” said Habada. It isn’t much use to the poorest.

Of the 240,000 people registered under the NREGS in Balangir, only 476 (0.2 per cent) live below the poverty line, according to the website of the Union Ministry for Rural Development.

Like a number of Balangir villagers dying in their 30s and 40s — the exact numbers are uncertain — Nag died in February 2008, officially of fever. His wife Kulbati (32) lived for 18 months more before dying of tuberculosis.

The statistics will not record the chronic hunger or malnourishment that possibly made the Nags susceptible to disease.

Officially, they died natural deaths.

Theoretically, the Nags’ children should, even at this stage, have been able to claim help from the state.

When the sole earning member dies, the family is eligible for Rs 10,000 under the National Family Benefit Scheme, created after a Supreme Court order.

The grant is supposed to be paid within four weeks of death: More than 15,000 applications are pending with the Balangir district administration “over years”.

No one can say how many years.

Nag’s sister-in-law, Kasturi, has never heard of such a scheme.

“I gather that many people fail to provide death certificates,” said Balangir Collector Sailendra Dey. “I have instructed officials to help people in submitting the death certificates so that the amount can be disbursed to the beneficiaries.”

Local lawyer Bishnu Prasad Sharma said the grant needed only an authorisation from a local ward member or sarpanch.

Bisnu Sahu, a naib sarpanch (village headman), said he never knew he had such authority. “No one ever told me,” he said.

The district collector, the chief administrative official, implied this was indeed the case. “I have asked officials to make people aware of the scheme,” Dey said.

Back near the Nags’ abandoned hut, Kasturi explained why a severe pain in her leg didn’t allow her to join her husband, son and daughter-in-law in the desperate migration south.

Where are the surviving Nags, the two daughters and a son, aged between  seven and 16? Gone, said Kasturi, to that brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh.

For another generation, Balangir’s death cycle has started.

(The Hunger Project is a Hindustan Times effort to track, investigate and report every aspect of the struggle to rid India of hunger. You can read previous stories in this series at www.hindustantimes.com/hungerproject)

March 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment

Farmers are committing suicide in western Orissa as Hirakud dam is failing:Study

Following is a report by IANS published in The Hindu:

Dozens of farmers have committed suicide in Orissa in the past one year as the Hirakud dam is no longer serving its purpose, says a new study that warns of a grimmer situation in the coming days if urgent steps are not taken.

The dam, built across the Mahanadi river, about 350 km from Bhubaneswar in the district of Sambalpur, is one of the longest in the world. It is one of independent India’s early multipurpose river valley projects.

In the initial phase, it checked floods in the state’s coastal areas, provided electricity to factories and homes and supplied ample water in the canals to grow a second crop every year.

“However, now these functions have been considerably reduced,” said Rajkishor Meher, a reader in sociology at the government-run Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies in Bhubaneswar.

Government records show 3,509 farmers committed suicide in Orissa in the last 11 years. The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party have alleged that at least 53 farmers committed suicide in the state in the past one year.

A years-long study by Meher on the plight of farmers at the tail ends of canals served by the dam is awaiting publication in the journal Contributions to Indian Sociology.

“The dam has almost lost its principal objective of irrigation promotion and agricultural development in the region,” Meher said.

“The system now hardly generates 30 percent of its installed hydro power capacity because of lack of adequate storage of water in the reservoir, obsolete technology and worn out machinery,” said the expert, who has authored several books related to sociology of development and on Orissa’s economy.

“Although floods in the Mahanadi was under control for some years, because of the silting of the riverbed by sand downstream of the dam, floods in the coastal region of the state have started recurring in a more aggravating form since 1980,” he said.

According to Meher, the dam project had displaced 101,000 people 50 years ago, a majority of them tribals.

“Given the rate of population growth and limited success of the past resettlement and rehabilitation process, it is not unfair to say that around 200,000 people of the original Hirakud oustees might still be impoverished by the project,” he said.

The reservoir submerged around 50,000 hectares of good farm land in 300 villages. As against that, it irrigated 157,790 hectares during the Kharif and 97,910 hectares during the Rabi seasons, according to official records.

“But at present due to silting of the reservoir and canals the tail end areas do not get adequate irrigation water for the second crop. The area deprived of a second crop is almost one-third of the created irrigated potential in the command area,” Meher said.

“So, the effective irrigation coverage for the second paddy crop is now available for hardly 60,000-70,000 hectares of agricultural land and that is at the cost of loss of 50,000 hectares of agricultural land and disruption of livelihood of around 40,000 displaced families at present.

“Plus, availability of water for agriculture shall be reduced in future, as the area surrounding the reservoir is now witnessing fast industrial growth and mining of coal.”

Meher said factories were taking more and more water from the Hirakud reservoir. “Before 1997 the total allocation of water to the industries of the region from the reservoir was 3,191,200 gallons per year. This has increased by 27 times in the past nine years and this is obviously at the cost of water for irrigation.

“In this scenario, the farmers in the tail end are going to suffer more and more.”

Meher wanted “immediate improvement” in the water management in the project’s command area. “If that is not done many small and marginal farmers who regularly borrow money for farming from various sources at high rates of interest may commit suicide.”

February 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

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