Sambalpur,15/01/19:“While the tribunal has already been formed, the states should not shut the door to dialogue. The need of the hour for Mahanadi is a joint strategic action between both the major riparian states to help the river survive the stress and get rejuvenated.”
The Mahanadi is already struggling for its life because of excessive exploitation of the water by industrialisation and negative impacts of climate change. The river certainly cannot afford such a conflict. The history of India’s inter-state disputes tells us that scarcity, or a perceived notion of scarcity, lets the conflict continue for years without an end in sight whenever it starts.
The research found out that while the inter-state dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh centred on reduced flow of water at the Hirakud reservoir because of the dams and barrages constructed upstream, the impact of coal mines and thermal power plants (TPPs), and other industries did not come up for discussion. This is because both the states have committed themselves to mining and industrialisation in the name of ‘development’ and have been promoting the Mahanadi as a ‘water surplus’ river for inviting more investment into mining and industrial sector. The research tries to highlight some such real issues being faced by people affected by mining and thermal power plants.
Being the youngest inter-state river water dispute of India, this case offers a lot of opportunities to understand the new dimensions of conflict that the earlier conflicts had not dealt with at least while being fought in the tribunals or courts. Impacts of coal fired power plants and climate change are such new dimensions.
When the ISRWD Act was promulgated, there was not much concern about water scarcity in general and ground water in specific. Even the concerns with regard to climate change impacts were also not addressed. While these aspects started to be highlighted in various disputes at later stage of their arguments, the climate change aspect has just set in conflicts such as the Mahanadi. Of course, not much by government but by people like us.
The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 have utterly failed to play their parts in managing ecological status and pollution levels of our rivers. Interestingly, these laws should have also played a major role in inter-state rivers by bringing in ecology protection and pollution control of river basins. However, they have been used mostly as instruments to clear more industrial projects, forest diversion, dam projects and other so called development projects that have ultimately caused decay in our rivers.
Dams the major conflict area
Dams are built for thousands of years. Water management approach of the country has basically been centred around large dams under the ‘Control Approach’. That is the reason most of the interstate river water disputes are centred around such dams. Control gives rise to conflict. Engineers are the most important influencers to ‘develop’ river basins by constructing dams, barrages, projects in which common people and other sectoral experts linked to rivers do not play any important role. It’s all about ‘controlling the Nature’.
Mahanadi conflict also revolves around dams and barrages and so far the debate is centered only around reduction of flow due to these structures. No doubt, the reduction of flows because of upstream dams or barrages or even because of heavy upstream water use (apart from affecting the availability of water) can have serious environmental/ecological impacts in the downstream areas, but they are not limited to that. In a basin like Mahanadi and many other basins where there is vast destruction of forests and hence top soil, there are many more ecological concerns.The Mahanadi conflict, therefore, has a lot more to solve than just reduced water flow. Just depending on the tribunal order may not serve the whole purpose.
Why the Tribunals won’t bring real solutions?
Tribunals in India don’t adhere to any specific principle of judging water conflicts. Even when a tribunal addresses a conflict based on the principle of ‘optimum utilisation of resource for all inhabitants’, there would remain many gaps – in so far as ensuring rights of the resources to local communities – because the ‘optimisations’ are largely dependent on the ‘water development’ models promulgated by the state machineries which are influenced by engineering designs that revolve around ‘control of the resources through large structures.’
The Mahanadi dispute has now gone to a tribunal. However, Odisha – the self-proclaimed ‘victim state’– should understand that inter-state water disputes are lengthy affairs. Interstate water disputes in India often prolong over long periods and tend to recur. Take for example the Cauvery Tribunal which took almost 17 years to give its final award. All other tribunals also took long years but disputes have every chance to recur.
Odisha – Chhattisgarh Conflict started in June 2016
Odisha’s complaint basically is centred on six barrages that Chhattisgarh was building upstream without consulting them, and that the central government was favouring the upper riparian state in this alleged illegal act. Odisha wanted an immediate halt to all such constructions and do an assessment of their impact on the Mahanadi flow that, according to Odisha, has already reduced a lot over the decades. “The annual flow of water in the Mahanadi in Odisha is 20 million cubic feet and if water is intercepted for storage by the upstream state, the flow will fall sharply,” the state’s engineer-in-chief had said then when he had been asked to investigate into Chhattisgarh’s illegalities.
Odisha apprehends that when all these barrages start operating in tandem, Mahanadi will be converted to an elongated pool, with storage potential of just 829 MCM of water during non-monsoon period. These barrages may actually reduce the non-monsoon flow in a normal year to the tune of 1,074 MCM and can also arrest base flow during weak monsoon years. The Odisha government’s apprehensions seem to be right and justified. Most of these barrages have been built under guise of irrigation but huge quantity of water has already been allocated to industries. These are in fact major projects as can be visible from the gates, height and catchment area interception of the barrages.
Mahanadi and Coal –
Odisha and Chhattisgarh are two of the richest mineral bearing states of India. Chhattisgarh ranks second in the country in coal production and contributes over 18 per cent to the total national production. The Chhattisgarh government sources say they have signed MoUs for about 1,40,000 MW of coal fired power plants including the captive power plants (CPPs). Most of these have come up, or will come up in the Mahanadi basin.
With 75.799 billion tonnes of coal reserve, Odisha occupies almost 24.72 percent of coal reserves in India. In the Ib Valley coalfields, which covers almost entire Mahanadi catchment, holds 24.830 billion tonnes of coal. Various estimates show that Odisha is planning to generate about 58,000 MW of coal fired power.
Mahanadi coal field areas are critically polluted both in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. People who have sacrificed for mines are now languishing in pitiable conditions without most of basic amenities. Drinking water sources face acute pollution. Visiting villages like Darlipali in the coal belt of the basin, one gets a confirmation that the inter-state river water dispute is going to become worse in the future.
Kelo dam built in 2012 on Bad Kelo river that joins the Mahanadi just ahead of the Hirakud reservoir obstructs a major tributary of Mahanadi thereby affecting hundreds of villagers downstream Odisha whose lives and livelihoods are completely dependent on this river. Industries are drawing water from this dam built as an irrigation dam.
The Odisha government’s current concern, however, is that due to blockage of water by Chhattisgarh it might face problems in supplying water to industries. It is implied from the villagers’ views and Odisha’s moves.
The irony is that most of these villagers, be it in Ib basin or Kelo basin, had been displaced by the Hirakud dam project in 1950s and they are yet to get basic minimum amenities. Chhattisgarh villagers are fighting similar battles.
Coal fired power plants –
Hirakud Reservoir, the major dam project over Mahanadi and the genesis of conflict between the two states, is surrounded by a lot of thermal power plants. The existence of so many power plants and the fly ash dumping by the same has been a major worry for the local people as well as for the health of the river and reservoir.
If Odisha achieves its plan to generate 58,000 MW of coal fired power in the coming decade or so, the total water requirement will be 1,624 MCM water per year, which would mean a direct diversion of water from 3,24,800 ha of farm land. Further, if we calculate this against the domestic water requirement then the plants will be using about 32.5 per cent more water than the domestic water requirement.
Then coal fired power plants are biggest Green House Gas (GHG) emitters. Considering that 1,000 MW thermal power would generate 5 million tons of carbon, the Government itself admits that Odisha’s energy sector will generate 9 billion tons of carbon over a 30-year period. This is almost 30.7 per cent of the total GHG contribution of India (at current levels). So, the thermal power plant belts of the state will not only eat up all the local water sources but also generate heat and pollution to the extent that these areas will experience drastic reduction in agricultural production and hence push thousands of villages to food insecurity.
Similar path of growth and industrialisation being pursued by neighbouring Chhattisgarh will make Odisha further vulnerable, as many of its plants will draw water from the Mahanadi. The cumulative impact of thermal power generation in both these states will have multiple devastating impacts on the region’s ecology and will make us further water insecure. The fly ash disposal will need thousands of hectares of land and will thus render a lot of land barren. Besides they will suck up a lot of water from the basin. A state that is already on a fast track of desertification due to heavy land degradation will have multiple challenges to face.
Mahanadi conflict and marginalisation of local communities –
There have been constant fights for water between industries and farmers both in Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
One needs to understand the biggest ever conflict over water that is going on between farmers and industries. 478 cusec of water in Odisha is allocated to industrial units from Hirakud reservoir which would have given irrigation to 4,78,000 acres of command area irrigation.
The original plan of irrigation from the Hirakud Dam project was to cover nearly 1,84,000 ha of land. But it was reduced to about 1,54,000 ha of land in the Hirakud command area. While Hirakud has failed to meet its irrigation targets, the industrial allocation of water has increased by manifold.
Farmers of the basin are now affected by multiple factors such as global climate change is certainly playing havoc and the impacts are being aggravated by local climatic variations that may have been fuelled by the industrial development around the Hirakud reservoir.
Hirakud reservoir has led to a process of desertification around it. Hirakud reservoir, like many other large reservoirs in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, is home to one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The ecological damage that the vast reservoir has caused has been largely overlooked over the years. The reservoir submerged a vast stretch of rich and diverse forest, which included Jamda reserve forest and a large portion of the present Debrigarh reserve forest.
The increased pest attack on farmlands is an indicator of climate change impact.
The Mahanadi basin is creating a dangerous cocktail of heat, pollution and empathetic system for the farmers. At the one end, the basin has been opened for rampant coal mining and industrialisation including coal-fired power plants that is contributing to both global and local warming, and at the other end, it is not providing ample support for the local communities to cope with the disasters. While the irrigated belt of the basin are facing problems because their share of assured irrigation water is now being diverted to industries, the communities from the non-irrigated belts are fighting with increasingly scarce and inaccessible water resources.
Concluding remarks –
The Mahanadi conflict, like all other inter-state water conflicts, has become more of a political fight between ruling parties of both the involved states. A number of actors have already played a role in exacerbating the conflict. They include bureaucrats, opposition political parties, technocrats, organisations fighting for human and environmental rights, so on and so forth. There is a common perception among some sections of society, both in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, that the governments’ involvement in the fight is more about votes than the real water crisis in the basin.
To find a solution to the crisis, both the governments first need to admit that Mahanadi is a deficit river. Both the Chhattisgarh and Odisha governments have been treating the Mahanadi in the same way by according industrial houses more priority than irrigation.
As it happens in most of the cases, the conflict – that starts from a perception of scarcity – has led to a bigger political battle than real efforts to solve the problem.
At the moment, the solution of Mahanadi conflict seems to be hanging around the formation of a tribunal. However, many experts who have worked on the ISRWD Act believe this is a toothless Act and ultimately the Supreme Court comes into deciding the fate of such disputes. Some of them have even suggested repealing the Act altogether.
While the tribunal has already been formed, the states should not shut the door to dialogue. The need of the hour for Mahanadi is a joint strategic action between both the major riparian states to help the river survive the stress and get rejuvenated. Statistics provided by Odisha confirms that there has been reduced flow of water at Hirakud and that means a great danger for farmers, fisherfolk and other people downstream, especially in the non-monsoon periods. However, there is no comprehensive study at the moment to tell us how exactly that is an impact of the dams and barrages built by Chhattisgarh.
The water yields show decreases of more than 10 per cent for the Mahanadi. (A recent IIT study) This is mainly because of significant decreases in rainfall caused by climate change. The government’s own sources find a substantial increase in temperature in the Mahanadi basin. While in the year 1999-2000, the minimum and maximum temperature of the basin ranged between 7 degree Celsius and 45.5 degree Celsius, it went up to a range between 13 degree Celsius to 48.8 degree Celsius by 2012. Consistently increasing temperature affects water retention capacity of a basin negatively.
It therefore means that one cannot singularly hold the dams and barrages of Chhattisgarh responsible for the decrease in water flow to Odisha. And it also brings to the fore the need of dialogue between both the states to combat climate change in a joint strategy. At present, the basin seems to be both a major contributor to climate change as well as is bearing a huge impact of the same.
Dams do a lot of damage to rivers and the damage to Mahanadi system had already started with the Hirakud Dam seventy years ago. Dams alter the flow pattern in a river, which in turn affects its aquatic biota. Scientific studies have found out that the populations of the sensitive species in the reservoirs and downstream of the dams/ barrages decline manifold. In Mahanadi, as our study finds out, fisherfolk have observed drastic reduction in fish catch and diversity both. That is mainly due to the Hirakud Dam, they said.
Chhattisgarh has been asking Odisha to utilise the water that is “getting wasted” into the sea.
There is also a constant lobby inside Odisha – especially among the politicians-bureaucrats-engineers-contractors lobby – to construct one of the two more dams on the Mahanadi main river as that had been envisaged in the original Hirakud project. Besides, there has been a constant attempt by the Odisha government to construct a dam at Sindhol, just a few kilometres below Hirakud, which has somehow been halted so far due to strong protest by local people and ecologists.
One (Tikarpada) of the two dam projects conceived in addition to Hirakud in original project has now been shifted to Manibhadra at a location above the Satkosia gorge. To explain its position as a victim state, Odisha has claimed that reduced water flow in the Mahanadi will badly affect the Satkosia gorge’s ecology. The central government has been pushing for the project at Manibhadra as part of the Mahanadi-Godavari link of the grand Interlinking of Rivers (ILR) programme and the state government has not yet refused the proposal in concrete terms. Locals are opposing the same.
Both the riparian states have asserted their rights to grab water from the river to feed the increasing demand of the industries, coal fired power plants and urban areas. Farmers are losing their rights over Mahanadi water. What the Mahanadi needs is ecological rejuvenation, and not dam building. Conflict mongering people must, therefore, refrain from such demands. Or else, Odisha will have to engage itself with many battles: one with Chhattisgarh, and several with its own people – farmers, fisherfolk, forest dwellers and ecologists. Let the conflicts lead to cooperation, not dams!
A two pronged solution could be approached: 1. Legal recourse that the states can take under the current law, and 2. Peace and cooperation building for river basin management.
Legal recourse –
The Mahanadi dispute is already in the tribunal. However, the fact that the Act under which this tribunal has been formed has been put to serious questions. A larger debate on this is needed at national level to change and/or update this Act or bring in new Acts. Even a common tribunal, that is to be formed under provisions of National Water Policy, is not going to solve the conflicts.
It is time to recognise the ‘rivers’ right to life’ in line with the right enjoyed by Indian citizens, and help them flow freely in healthy conditions. The governments should help cater to the needs of riparian communities, maintain biodiversity and other priorities in a sustainable manner.
However, as experts believe and many cases described in our study report amply depict, just a legal discourse is not going to solve a river water dispute. River basin management needs to be approached in a holistic manner.
The NWP 2012 has already dealt with a set of recommendations in this regard by talking about various aspects that need to be taken care of in case of river management. The NWP says: “There is need for comprehensive legislation for optimum development of inter-state rivers and river valleys to facilitate inter-sate coordination ensuring scientific planning of land and water resources taking basin/ sub-basin as unit with unified perspectives of water in all its forms (including precipitation, soil moisture, ground and surface water) and ensuring holistic and balanced development of both the catchment and the command areas. Such legislation needs, inter alia, to deal with and enable establishment of basin authorities, comprising party states, with appropriate powers to plan, manage and regulate utilization of water resource in the basin”. Of course basin authorities have not been effective in India so far.
The problem with the tribunals is that they have accepted the term ‘river development’ in a way that means building more dams and projects that alter the flow and impact the ecology of the rivers. It is therefore very difficult to say what course a river water dispute will take in the court of law under an act that itself has been considered weak and even unwanted.
The NWP however has many positive prescriptions to make that may add to river conservation and rejuvenation. “Conservation of rivers, river corridors, water bodies and infrastructure should be undertaken in a scientifically planned manner through community participation…..; and, encroachments and diversion of water bodies (like rivers, lakes, tanks, ponds, etc.) and drainage channels (irrigated area as well as urban area drainage) must not be allowed, and wherever it has taken place, it should be restored to the extent feasible and maintained properly.”
A joint action plan between both the major riparian states of Mahanadi is needed to preserve all the surface water bodies.
Way back in 1975, the Central Water Commission (CWC) had circulated a “Model Bill on Flood Plain Zoning” for the state governments to take it up as a model for freeing flood plains from encroachments by empowering the authorities appropriately. This needs to be revived and both states need to work together on freeing floodplains from all sorts of encroachment and constructions.
Under the Environment Protection Act of 1986, a river zone regulation was to be promulgated to protect riverbeds from any harmful constructions in future. It is yet to be done. Both Odisha and Chhattisgarh need to take this up as an urgent action and work towards bringing in force a strict river regulation zone which can help in proper river basin planning and management, and hence help the rivers from decaying further and also in reducing flood furies.
Disputes in case of a conflict like the Mahanadi also have many of their seeds in how both the states are dealing with the Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act), 2006. Forest areas managed in the basin both by the government and communities need a synchronised effort without which it is not possible to protect the ecology and water retention capacity of the basin. In fact, community rights over forests can play a vital role in river rejuvenation. That is why both the states should work towards recognising right of local communities including the indigenous communities on forests in the basin.
The central government is diluting norms and allowing thermal power plants to pollute more. The need of the hour is to bring in strict regulations to stop pollution of the river and work towards enforcing them.
A cooperation agenda with which both governments and other stakeholders can work –
No further large dam building and no to interlinking of rivers (ILR) -
The Odisha govt, to make its argument strong against Chhattisgarh, mentioned about “ILR being a dream project of the central government that may be affected ifChhattisgarh continues with its dam and barrage plans.”
That is ironical as Odisha is fighting with Chhattisgarh against dams with an argument that reduced water flow will impact ecological hotspots in the lower basin negatively. But by encouraging the ILR, it supports more large dams in Odisha such as the Manibhadra that communities in Odisha are opposing. Large dams and river linking project will further aggravate conflicts and marginalise the local communities, as has been the case almost everywhere. The Mahanadi states should therefore agree to not build any further large dams and say no to the ILR plan as the Mahanadi is already a stressed river and has no water to be flown to the Godavari.
Commonly agreed scientifically verified facts about the river water -
Both the state governments have contradictory sets of data that have been presented to suit their positions. The need is for considering rights of the local and indigenous communities to the resources that are dependent on and part of the larger ecosystem of the Mahanadi basin. As such also, Indian governance is yet to demonstrate any foolproof mechanism to verify opposing facts and figures by warring states. Without having a comprehensive assessment of the basin’s water holding scenario vis-à-vis rights of people over these, any strong monitoring can hardly be guaranteed.
It is important to have at least a baseline of commonly agreed facts and scientifically verified indicators of water management and utilisation that can be available for monitoring progress of the cooperation agreements or tribunal orders.
Comprehensive ecological impact assessment and ecological restoration of catchment areas -
The Odisha government’s position on ‘ecology’ in the conflict so far can be a good point to be taken up by the tribunal. In fact, among all the inter-state disputes, this seems to be a new dimension in the Mahanadi conflict, as far as the major focus of the ‘victim state’ is concerned.
Odisha has also been projecting the Mahanadi delta as an ecologically sensitive zone, and rightly so. However, Odisha too has not done enough to maintain the basin ecology that started getting destroyed with the construction of the Hirakud Dam. Then, many issues raised by Odisha with regard to problems in its ecological hotspots are also creation of the Hirakud Dam. Now, Chhattisgarh dams and barrages will add to the woes. Odisha and Chhattisgarh have wasted the opportunity of protecting the Mahanadi catchment jointly.
Green energy agenda -
India‘s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) targets to lower the emissions intensity of GDP by 33 per cent to 35 per cent by 2030 (below 2005 levels), to increase the share of non-fossil based power generation capacity to 40 per cent of installed electric power capacity (equivalent to 26-30 per cent of generation in 2030), and to create an additional (cumulative) carbon sink of 2.5-3 GtCO2e through additional forest and tree cover.
To meet INDC targets as well as to take real green actions, India needs to bring in a strong integrated approach of GHG emissions by linking all sectors. While the focus on reducing emissions from fossil fuels is essential and must be the major focus, destruction of environment due to the existing coal fired power plants and other industries have to be looked into in sync with this.
The Mahanadi basin is perfect example of how coal fired power plants have put the resources and people to severe stress. The governments should immediately work out a green energy plan for the basin and phase out coal by a fixed target year, may be by 2030.
Climate change, drought proofing and ecological rejuvenation of river -
It is already established that the Mahanadi river basin is being seriously affected by climate change. Drought has become a regular phenomenon in the river and both states are doing a lot of drought relief operations.
There is a need for both states to work together on climate change mitigation and suitable resilience building programmes that enhance the coping capacity of communities towards drought. For this to happen, all their irrigation, forest conservation, food and nutrition security programmes need to be integrated with each other.
Flood management –
Now, with growing conflicts and more number of dams and barrages, it becomes important to have a better coordination mechanism on flood management operations. The Odisha government has recently announced a real-time monitoring system of flood data in the Mahanadi. However, we cannot assess its effectiveness unless they coordinate with Chhattisgarh dams and review the rule curve.
Sea rise and cyclones -
The Bay of Bengal, in which Mahanadi falls, is one of the most vulnerable seas to climate change. What is worrying is the fact that fossil fuel based industries and power plants that are responsible for causing more cyclones are a dual problem for this bay: 1. Because of the global climate change, and 2. Because the mad rush for coal fired power plants in the Mahanadi basin, which may be a local driver of it. The rise in sea surface temperature (SST) is largely driven by global temperature rise due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere. According to scientists, rise in SST is a major cause of increased intensity of cyclones that ravage the Bay of Bengal from time to time. Worrisome also is the fact that mangrove forests, the richest among which are found in this bay, are also shrinking fast due to “development”. Mangrove forests act as a natural shield against cyclones.
Both Odisha and Chhattisgarh need to work in tandem by integrating their climate change action plans, to mitigate these challenges faced by the Bay of Bengal that is already affecting the coastal communities in Mahanadi delta heavily. Sea rise, increasing damages by cyclones, relocation and rehabilitation of people affected by inundation of the sea, saline ingression, etc., are some of the aspects which need urgent attention in a Mahanadi cooperation agenda.
Recognising community right over resources and ensuring their participation in river management -
There is no scope for participation of affected communities in river basin management. In fact, there is no law that governs participation of communities in this. The NWP 2012 has a mention about need for community participation but the governments keep following business as usual approach in taking up all development projects.
When it comes to the coal belts of the Mahanadi, on which majority of our field study focussed, people are forcefully evicted from their land, forest and water resources in the name of ‘development’ and then have no participation whatsoever in how these development projects work. The government mechanisms to monitor the compliance of rehabilitation, environment legislations and pollution of water resources are also flawed and the institutions show a great deal of complacency and inefficiency.
This needs to change. People should not only be ensured right to the resources but also right to basic amenities such as drinking water. Diversion of irrigation water to industries should be made under a sustainability framework that makes the distribution between all stakeholders equitable without marginalising the local and indigenous communities.
Bhubaneswar,12/11/18:The Odisha Chief Minister’s letter to the Culture Minister for a probe into the neglect of the Konark Temple by the Archaeological Survey of India is a knee jerk reaction and just a formality. The State officials are aggrieved that the replacements of the damaged stone blocks is being done with plain stones. Little do they know that these are UNESCO guidelines, which the ASI is compelled to adhere. If they dither, then we may lose the World Heritage Site status that has been accorded by UNESCO.
The problems are not just the manner in which the conservation is being done. The criminal neglect of the ASI towards the preservation of the Sun temple and the other heritage structures of the State is a tragic matter. The State’s own Archaeology wing is s defunct department which too is responsible for the dismal state of the State’s heritage.
The Archaeological Survey of India insists that Konark has one of the longest conservation histories in India. The history of conservation of the Sun Temple spans more than one century. There were more than 11 reports prepared by different authorities in different times. Except for three reports, all the other reports were just ignored. Absolutely no action has been taken on the last seven reports.
The first report was prepared by Bishan Swarup, an engineer who worked at the site from 1901-04. It was he who realised that the edifice faced an imminent collapse and had it filled up with sand. The initial masonry work done under his supervision saved the temple from being completely destroyed. Swarup had given detailed suggestions for the further upkeep of the temple, but these were just forgotten.
The next committee was formed in 1950, during a meeting held at the Circuit house in Bhubaneswar. It was chaired by Biswanath Dash and had on its panel C.M.Master, an eminent architect from Bombay. None of the recommendations were put in place.
The third committee was formed in 1953, this too under the Chairmanship of Biswanath Das and the recommendation for erection of scaffolding was implemented.
In 1978, the ASI constituted the Konark Expert Committee which held its first meeting on the 7th November at Konark. For the first time, a serious view of the problem was taken and the committee was chaired by M.N.Deshpande, the then DG of the ASI. The horticultural development of the precincts was mooted and implemented.
After the collapse of five stone blocks from the main temple, structural conservation was undertaken between 1985-90. Based on this, scaffolding to some vulnerable sections was done. Another report of the Scientific Branch of the ASI made recommendation on Chemical Preservation, but nothing was done.
In 1979, the Unesco Experts Recommendation on Conservation of Konark was given to the Government of India. After declaring it a World Heritage Site, Unesco once again appointed a committee headed by two experts of international repute, Sir B M Fielden and P Beckman in 1987. They described the state of the temple as alarming and advised immediate preventive measures. After the hue and cry died down, this report too was confined to the dark rooms of the ASI.
The Italian expert Prof Ing. Giorgio Croci made a Structural Analysis of the Jagamohan in 1997. In 2010, the ASI called world experts and erected temporary scaffolding so that they could inspect the top of the temple. The committee made several recommendations, including that of removing the sand. One of the suggestions was to drill a hole and send endoscopic video graphic cameras to assess the state of the interior of the temple.
According to A.B.Tripathy, Convener, INTACH Odisha, the temple is in a precarious condition due to the sheer neglect by the ASI. He along with other INTACH members was a part of the team which examined the structure in 2010. The recommendations for immediate removal of the sand by the experts were ignored. Experts from the IITs too had given their opinions for removal of the sand. The Central Building Research Institute at Roorkee had analysed the stone blocks and given their reports. The ASI has done nothing.
Anil Dhir, another INTACH member, who is also the Secretary of the Konark Suraksha Samiti, says that the ASI is apathetic to the Sun Temple. This year too, like previous years, the structure was flooded nearly half a dozen times, causing alarm and panic among the locals. Repeated agitations by local stakeholders, whose livelihood is intricately linked with the temple, has fallen on deaf years.
A nexus of the ASI and local mafia have made the place into a crime den. There is rampant corruption in the granting of contracts by the ASI to political henchmen of the ruling party. The High Court of Odisha had appointed a amicus curiae for looking into the neglect. Even though he submitted his report three years back, no steps have been taken.
According to Dhir, at one early stage of restoration in 1910, a British Commissioner is said to have remarked that not one rupee should be spent on the monument the sooner it falls, the better. The way the ASI is working, this may well happen and very soon.
Bhubaneswar,20/10/18:Every year on the 21st October, the Govt. of India organises celebrations of Netaji's formal declaration. But little else is done. These are the 10 recommendations of Captain John Jacob, founder president of the INA Committee to the Government of India. Unfortunately none of the recommendations were implemented by any governments in the last 75 years. His recommendations were;
Declare Netaji as the first President of India because he, on October 21, 1943, he had proclaimed the Provisional Government of Free India from exile, which drew instant recognition from nine European and Asian countries.
Declare Netaji's birthday, January 23, as a National Day.
Declare "Jai Hind" as the national greeting.
Include the INA National Anthem in all school and college prayers.
Erect a life-size statue of Netaji in the precincts of the Red Fort.
Issue permanent currency notes, coins and postage stamps of various denominations bearing the portrait of Netaji.
Name at least one women's wing in the Indian Defence Forces as Rani Jhansi Regiment as it was in the INA.
Name one defence academy after Netaji.
Introduce an authentic account of the INA as an integral part of modern Indian history in all educational curricula.
Establish an International Netaji Research Foundation under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resources for undertaking wide-ranging research in areas like in international relations, defence and welfare economics.
Bhubaneswar,17/10/ 2018 : Earlier, in April 2016, the Government of India had told the Supreme Court that the Kohinoor diamond was neither “forcibly taken nor stolen” by the British, but had instead been gifted to the East India Company by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Archeological Survey of India has now made matters murkier by contradicting the government’s stand by stating in a recent RTI reply that the diamond was in fact “surrendered” by Dalip Singh to Queen Victoria of England. Jawaharlal Nehru had once said, "Diamonds are for the Emperors and India does not need Emperors."
According to Anil Dhir, who has researched the Sikh connection with the Jagannath Temple, there is ample documentary proof that Maharaja Ranjit Singh had bequeathed the diamond to the Jagganath temple before his death in 1839. A letter written by the British government's political agent from a camp near the Khyber Pass on July 2, 1829 is preserved in the National Archives of India at New Delhi. The letter, addressed to T.A. Maddock, the officiating secretary to the Government of India says: "Although the right Hon'ble Governor General of India will have received the melancholy intelligence of the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh before my report on that event can arrive, I deem it my duty to announce that his highness expired at Lahore on the 27th ultimo." Maddock also wrote: "During the last days of his illness, his highness declared to have bestowed in charity money, jewels and other property to the supposed value of 50 lakhs of rupees. Among the jewels, he directed the well-known Coh-I-Nur (Kohinoor) diamond to be sent to the temple of Jagannath at Puri.
Dhir says that is an established fact that Maharaja Ranjit Singh had donated more gold and silver to the Jagannath Temple in Puri than even to Golden Temple. He had a lifelong yearning to visit Puri, but his impairments restricted him from taking such a long journey. Just ten years later, the British took away the diamond from Ranjit Singh's son, Dalip Singh, in 1849, even though they were fully aware of it being bequeathed to Lard Jagganath at Puri.
A.B.Tripathy, Convener of INTACH Odisha is of the opinion that the Kohinoor’s rightful place is at the Jagannath Temple. He said that a INTACH team had met the Director of the National Archives of India in May this year with a request that the original letter mentioning Ranjit Singh’s wishes should be displayed at the Bhubaneswar Centre of the Archives.
Dhir says that the claim for the return of the Kohinoor was first done soon after Independence 1947 by the Government of India. Another request followed in 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But the really fight erupted in 1976 when the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in a letter to the British Prime Minister, James Callaghan, submitted a formal request for the return of the diamond to Pakistan. Pakistan’s claim was refused, but Callaghan gave a written assurance to Bhutto that there was no question that Britain would have handed it over to any other country. Shortly after, a major newspaper in Tehran stated that the gem ought to be returned to Iran. In November 2000 the Taliban regime demanded the return of the diamond to Afghanistan.
For the record, the Kohinoor had been in the possession of Mughal rulers in Delhi for 213 years, with rulers in Kandahar and Kabul for 66 years and with the British for nearly 170 years.
Dhir said that the RTI reply by the ASI is highly irresponsible and a distortion of historical facts. It seems that the ASI too is parroting what the British has been all along saying, that the Kohinoor was surrendered in the Treaty of Lahore, little knowing that Dalip Sigh just did not have much choice in the matter.
USA:A Hindu temple is opening on October 14 in the Tea suburb of South Dakota’s largest city Sioux Falls, which is claimed to be the “first Hindu temple in the Dakotas”.
North Dakota and South Dakota, states in the Great Plains region of USA, are spread out in about 147,814 square miles area. There is a considerable growth of Hindu populations in the Dakotas.
Grand opening of Hindu Temple of Siouxland (HTOS), earlier scheduled to open on August 26, was delayed due to waterlogging caused by unexpected rain. Cost estimates for the two phases of the temple are listed as $585,000. Bhoomi Pooja of the temple site was held in 2016.
Ancient Hindu rituals to be performed at this Hindu Temple Opening Ceremony (Prana Pratishtha) and murti sthapana include sacred pitcher worship, consecration of deities, ceremony of fire and lights, flowers offering, liturgical dance, bhajans, etc. These rituals are believed to “endow the temple deities with divine power and bless the community in which they reside”. All are invited to the opening celebrations which will be followed by community lunch.
Meanwhile, distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, commended efforts of temple leaders and area community towards realizing this much needed Hindu temple.
Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, further said that it was important to pass on Hindu spirituality, concepts and traditions to coming generations amidst so many distractions in the consumerist society and hoped that this temple would help in this direction. Zed stressed that instead of running after materialism; we should focus on inner search and realization of Self and work towards achieving moksh (liberation), which was the goal of Hinduism.
“Mission and Objectives” of HTOS in southwest of Sioux Falls include: “Practice ideals of Hinduism through worship, education, and community involvement”. It is seeking donations and plans to celebrate “Festival of Lights” on November three. Archana Chatterjee and Muthukumarappan are Trustees Chair and Vice Chair, while Ramesh Singh and Kalyan Boinapalli are President and Vice President respectively.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world has about 1.1 billion adherents. There are about three million Hindus in USA.
Tea, incorporated in 1906 and whose tagline is “a growing tradition”, celebrates “Teapot Days” every June, which included “Crowning of Ma & Pa Teapot”. John Lawler is the Mayor.
Bhhubaneswar,10/08/18:Very few people, both in Odisha and Tamil Nadu are aware of the deep connection that Biju Patnaik had with Karunanidhi. In the third volume of his autobiographical book ‘Nenjukku Needhi’, Karunanidhi mentioned in detail about Biju Patnaik and it was he who referred to him as a “UyarnthaManidan” (the tall man).
The politics of Tamil Nadu may have been vastly different if Biju Patnaik's master plan of September 1979 had succeeded. He had attempted, and nearly succeeded, in what wouldappear to be an impossible dream today- the merger of the DMK and the AIADMK.
India got its first non-Congress government at the Centre in 1977, after Indira Gandhi’s Congress was routed because of the Emergency excesses. The Janata Party government was suffering from congenital maladies; it was never in good health since its formation. The period between 1977 and 1979 was one of political uncertainties. Public perception about the government in New Delhi was marred by the naked power struggle among its top leaders. Clashing prime ministerial ambitions of Jagjivan Ram and Charan Singh resulted ina veritable deluge of bad publicity for the ruling party.
In July 1979, Raj Narain and Charan Singh pulled out of the Janata Party on the flimsy reason that many of the Jan Sangh members continued to be members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The left leaning bloc in the Janata Party included leaders like Madhu Limaye, Krishnan Kant and George Fernandes. Morarji Desai was forced to resign and Charan Singh was sworn in as the caretaker Prime Minister, with tacit support of Indira’s Congress Party. Indira demanded her pound of flesh in the form of withdrawal of the cases filed against her for the Emergency excesses. However Indira’s blackmail did not work, Charan Singh refused to withdraw the Emergency related court cases, and she withdrew support. His government could noteven face the Lok Sabha during its brief tenure of just 24 days.
Biju Patnaik wasthen the Union Minister of Steel both under Morarji Desai, and thereafter Charan Singh. He was a known strongman in the Party and had a good rapport with all the leaders of different parties. He could read the writing on the wall: India was heading towards fresh elections.
MG Ramachandran was the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu. The thespian actor-politician had a cult following. His party AIADMK, floated in 1972 after the split with the DMK over differences with M Karunanidhi, had come to power after just five years of its formation. MGR was two years into his first term as Chief Minister, and had supported the Charan Singh government at the Centre, but the wily south Indian politician knew that electionswere looming on the horizon. He was aware that the Janata party’s repeated debacles in its short stint were propelling Indira Gandhi back into the popularity charts. He sent feelers to her, but the wary Indira adopted a cautious stand. A meeting was fixed between the two at Delhi forthe 6th September, but was called off in the last moment. Biju got wind of the scheduled meeting, and on his advice, Charan Singh arm-twisted MGR, threatening to drop two of MGR’s cabinet ministers from the government. The confused MGR cancelledhis Delhi trip and did not meet Indira.
At this juncture, Biju Patnaik entered the scene. He made an impossible plan of merging the two Dravidian parties- the DMK and the AIADMK. Biju had a very good rapport with DMK Chief M. Karunanidhi, especially following DMK's nation-wide movement for state autonomy vis-a-vis Centre-State relations in the early 1970s.
On the 11th Sept, Biju Patnaikasked for an appointment with Karunanidhi to discuss an important issue. The next day he landed at Madras and met him at his residence. Karunanidhi recalled that when he asked Patnaik whose idea it was of merging the DMK and AIADMK, Patnaik replied that it was MGR’s. It was only years later that Karunanidhi came to know that Biju Patnaik played the same game with MGR.He had told him that it was Karunanidhi’s idea(!).
Karunanidhi writes, "Biju came on September 12, 1979 and discussed the merger issue with me in detail. After the discussion, I had put a few conditions for the merger. We had accepted MGR to continue as Chief Minister. MGR had okayed the merger formula wherein the unified party would be named DMK and the ADMK flag retained."
In what seemed a win-win situation for both the parties, Karunanidhi agreed to MGR continuing as Chief Minister. In lieu, Karunanidhi would be Party President for life. The contentious issue of retaining the DMK name was resolved, with the concession that the AIADMK flag would be the party ensign. Besides, the DMK had properties and buildings in various places all over Tamil Nadu, and it was also the party founded by Anna.Hence the name DMK would continue.
Biju Patnaik was elated since he had expected much tougher terms for what seemed impossible. In fact, Karunanidhi writes that a very happy Biju hugged him after he gave his consent. Biju arranged for a meeting between the Chiefs of the two parties at the Chepauk Guest House the next day.Both MGR and Karunanidhi had a one-on-one meeting in aseparate room, while Biju and the top brass of both the parties comprising DMK General Secretary Prof. K Anbazhagan and AIADMK's Nedunchezhian and Panruti Ramachandran met in the sidelines. Following the meeting, the two sides agreed to the conditions, and the leaders decided to convene emergency Executive Council meetings of their respective parties to pass resolutions on the merger. It was decided that MGR would convene a meeting of the Executive Council of his party near Vellore the next day and that Karunanidhiwould conduct a similar exercise in Chennai.
Media reports of Biju Patnaik’s involvement in the merger spread like wildfire. He quietly flew back to Delhi, with hopes of having succeeded in scuttling the Congress’s plans. When reporters asked Kalaignar he said `‘What is wrong in the merger of DMK and ADMK?” However the next day, at a public meeting in Vellore, MGR surprisingly did not speak about the merger and instead his ministers lashed out at the DMK. The DMK leaders too started airing their dissent. Speaking to the media,Kalaignar blamed the AIADMK. He said, “No follow up actions on other side. I think the poll alliances of the two parties will be different.” After Vellore, it was the end of the road for the merger and talks did not continue. For Biju Patnaik, it was a failed attempt to put a check on the Congress rising. He just shrugged off the incident as another unsuccessful venture.
Indira Gandhi came to know of the developments and Biju’s role. She sent her close confidante C.M.Stephen to Tamil Nadu, who contacted Murasoli Maran and repeatedly urged him of forget the past and conveyed Indira’s desire for alliance with the DMK again. Indira Gandhi desperately needed some props in Tamil Nadu. The DMK had supported Indira Gandhi’s actions for nationalisation of banks and abolition of privy purses. Its support to the candidature of V.V.Giri in the Presidential elections had ensured his victory. However the DMK had not forgotten the dismissal of its government in 1976 and opposed the Emergency. Many DMK cadres had been imprisoned under the draconian MISA, including Karunanidhi’s son M.K.Stalin, and were subjected to inhuman torture in prison. In fact earlier that year in June, during a black flag demonstration, Indira Gandhi was attacked by DMK men at Madurai. They were protesting against her for the dismissal of their government.
However Indira held out an olive branch. Stephen held a juicy carrot dangling on a short stick. Karunanidhi too, like MGR, had sensed the imminent disintegration of the Janata rule. Under the excuse of national stability, he aligned with Indira Gandhi. He had famously said: “Nehruvinmagalevaruga. NilayanaAatchi tharuga”.(Welcome to the daughter of Nehru.Please provide a stable rule). His strategy proved right. In the 1980 Parliamentary elections the DMKwon 16 seats while the AIADMK could get only 2 seats. In fact, the Congress-led coalition secured 37 out of the 39 seats.
More than 38years after Biju Patnaik’s failed mission, Karunanidhi still recollected the events during each election run up. He blamed one of MGR’s ministers for the debacle and lauded the effort of Biju Patnaik. In May 2012, during the Odisha Day celebrations at the Madras University, where Chief Minister Jayalalitha shared the dais with Naveen Patnaik, she showered praises on Biju Patnaik and described him as a “father figure”."There was a natural synergy between myself and Biju Patnaik. He left behind a legacy of respect, cooperation and mutual affection. This legacy is reflected in the bond that I continue to share with Naveen Patnaik, she had said.
The very next day, Karunanidhi, in a letter addressed to the party cadres, recalled Biju Patnaik’s efforts for the merger of the two Dravidian parties in 1979 and said the attempt failed due to the AIADMK. Even in Tamil Nadu elections of 2016, Biju Babu’s name had cropped up in various election rallies of this Southern state, both from the DMK and the AIADMK.
Sealed Underground Bunker Should be Opened
Rasgovindpur, (Mayurbhanj) Odisha, 26th July 2018: A memorial service was held at the Amarda Road Airstrip today for the fourteen airmen who had died in a crash here on the 26th of July 1945. War historian Anil Dhir, Gandhian Aditya Patnaik, Social Activist Dr. Biswajit Mohanty and the Staff of the Gandhi Eye Hospital at Rangamatia, locals including school children paid homage to the dead airmen who have been forgotten in history. Wreaths were laid for each of the dead airmen.
Very few people know that the skies of Odisha had seen the crash of two aircraft which has collided against each other and resulted in the deaths of 14 airmen. On the 26th of July 1945 two British Royal Air Force B-24 Liberator four-engine bombers collided at low altitude. The aircrafts were based at the Amarda Road airfield and were part of a six-plane contingent from the Air Fighting Training Unit engaged in a formation flying exercise. Fourteen airmen – the crews of the two aircraft died in the crash. They were of nationalities- six British, three American, one each Canadian, Dutch, New Zea-lander, Australian and one Indian.
The Rasgovindpur Airstrip had a short but secret illustrious history which has never been made public. It had the longest runway in Asia, more than 3.5 km long. The total runways, taxiways, aprons, etc. were more than 60 km. Today all is forgotten, no details of the activities that happened here between 1943 and 1945 exist, not even in government and military records. The station came into existence during the war as a forward airfield against the Japanese conquest of Burma. The large strip served its purpose well as a landing ground for planes and also as a training space for special bombing missions. The Amarda Road airstrip, as it was called in war terminology, spreads across an area of nearly 900 acres. Built in the 1940’s at a cost of Rs 3 Crores, it was eventually abandoned after the war. It was named as the Amarda Road Airfield due to the nearby Amarda Road railway station.
Even today, seven decades after the base was made, one can still see the remains of the airfield, their 11000 feet concrete runway still intact, though the buildings that once cluttered the edges are gone. The offices, hangars, mechanic sheds and plaster walled barracks with thatched roofs have been ripped down. Instead, local women dry laundry and farmers their grain on the warm tarmac. The cows and goats crop weeds along the runway edges. The story of this crash and the victim had been lost in history.
Anil Dhir has requested the government of Odisha and West Bengal to erect small memorials for these airmen at Amarda Road and the crash site. He has also requested to open up the sealed underground bunker which may hold relics of the period. Aditya Patnaik has proposed that he would give ample space in the Gandhi Gurukul at the airbase for setting up a small museum which will highlight the importance of the airbase during World War II. The setting up of a Peace Museum was mooted last year and Dhir has contacted the British, Australian, Dutch and USA authorities for material to be displayed at the Museum. The response has been very positive. Anil Dhir also said that a book on the history of the base the and crash would be released on the next commemoration day.
Dr. Biswajit Mohanty said that the Odisha government should understand the importance of this historical airfield and promote it as a destination. There is a big tourism potential of the base. Many groups from Japan, Britain, America and other countries come to visit the war memorials in the North East every year. He said that all efforts should be taken up for the Museum. The airstrip is an important piece of history connected to the World War II and has a lot of significance as it was a secret base.
Ankit Kotecha from Balasore, who is a Pilot with Spicejet, too attended the memorial service.
Bhubaneswar 12th June: One of the last remaining vestiges of the Old Jagannath Sadak, just on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, is crumbling for want of proper conservation. The Anu Patro Kothi, as it has been popularly called since the last 140 years, is in need or urgent repairs. Located in the Gadasrirampur village under the Balianta P.S., this small but grand two storied house was constructed by one Anadi Patro between the years 1880-82. During its heydays, it was one of the most majestic buildings on the Old Road between Bhingarpur and Sakhigopal. It is just two kms away from the Sai Temple on the Puri Bypass road.
The Anu Patro Kothi has an interesting history behind it. Anadi Patro was a farmer who had migrated to Kolkata after the Na Anka Durbhikshya of 1866. He had set up a small business and had become successfuland prospered. He frequently came home to his village, travelling on the Old Jagannath Sadak. He was aware of the travails and difficulties faced by the pilgrims, and being a devout and religious man, he had made the house as a resting place for the Jagannath pilgrims.
Built in a neo-colonial style, the two storied house was built by the side of the old road. The workmen, carpenters and masons had come from Kolkata. There are carved doors and windows, an arched entranceway and a huge stone paved courtyard.Anu Patro also dug a big stone lined pond and two wells for the pilgrims. A temple too was constructed. For many years it was a favourite stop for the pilgrims, and most of them would camp here at night.The original work was in lime plaster and wooden beams.
The house was listed as a heritagestructure of the Old Sadak by INTACH during their survey of the Monuments of the Old Jagannath Sadak. In fact, it was a part of the report submitted to the government fornotifying it as a protected monument. In fact many visitors have come to see the house after it was listed by INTACH. According to Anil Dhir, who headed the INTACH team in the survey, the old house is one of the last surviving examples of the architecture of the period. Dhir said that no other structure has endured the vagaries of time like this building. The palaces and old houses in Bhingarpur are in ruins and beyond restoration. Another old house at Dandamukundpur was completely destroyed last year. A copy of this building can be found in Sakhigopal, which now houses the Temple Administrator’s office. This rambling house, is today still beautiful, but unkempt and sadly disintegrating in places.Dhir laments that many of the structures that had been listed by him have been destroyed. Just last year, the historic 180 year old Maratha era bridge at Jaleswar was demolished despite all protests.
The Old house is in urgent needs of repair. The walls and roof are leaking, and the wooden beams are now in a precarious state. The owners had made some repairs a few years ago, but looking at the heritage value of the building, it needs proper conservation and repair to restore it to its old glory. The present owners are aware of the religious significance of the building and want to convert it as a museum. The rooms are filled with antique furniture. Once it is restored; the family will maintain it and throw it open for the public. A team from INTACH comprising of State Convener A.B.Tripathy, Sanjib Hota, Kulamoni Deo and Anil Dhir have visited the village and inspected the building.
According to A.B.Tripathy, the house is a neglected piece of history which is in urgent need of proper conservation. He said that INTACH will take it up with the authorities to see that funds are made available for the proper restoration and conservation of the building. In fact the MP and MLA should make allocations from their LAD funds for the upkeep of the house. INTACH will extend all expertise for the proper repair and restorationof this structure.
Sanjib Hota has opined that the government should take steps to notify the Monuments of the Old Jagannath Sadak. The report submitted by INTACH two years ago should be published and released. The vestiges of the Old Jagannath Sadak are very important to the culture and history of the State, and are a part and parcel of the Jagannath Cult. Ignoring the proper maintenance is sacrilegious and will be a big loss to our religious traditions.