Bhubaneswar,In the aftermath of the Jammu and Kashmir action by the Centre, the internet and the newspapers are agog with the story of Biju Babu having done the first landing during the 27th October 1947 invasion of Kashmir, and how he was instrumental in the Maharaja signing the Instrument of Accession. All the biographies, including the official hagiographic tome “The Tall Man” mention this act of bravery. Even the official sites of the Odisha government tom-toms this story. The demand for conferring the Bharat Ratna too has been raised against the Art 370 dilution.
This is far from the truth. Biju Patnaik was nowhere near Srinagar or Jammu and Kashmir on that day. In fact, he did do many landings in the later month, the first being on the 10th November 1947, and a good fourteen days after the invasion. The first landing was done by Wing Commander Karori Lal Bhatia of the Indian Air Force, flying a DC-3 Dakota. Three Dakotas of 12 Sqn took off from Wellingdon airfield at Delhi at 0500 hours for Srinagar signalling the start of the IAF operations in the 1947-48 War. Before the end of the day, 28 Dakota sorties are flown.
Immediately after the Maharaja of Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession on the 26th October 1947, No 12 Sqn, under the command of Wing Commander Bhatia was deputed for operations. He piloted the very first aircraft, into the Kashmir Valley on 27 October 47, carrying troops of 1st Sikh Regiment under Lt Col D R Rai. In the following weeks, the squadron also conducted bombing sorties in support of the army with the bombs being rolled out of the cargo bay by the aircrew. The fledgling Indian Air Force committed almost its entire resources to the 1947-48 Kashmir Operations.
On 9th November, Prime Minister Nehru flew to Srinagar in an IAF Dakota piloted by Bhatia. Mehar Singh flew Maharaja Hari Singh from Jammu in another Dakota. No.12 Sqn, in the course of its regular casualty evacuation and transport duties in the next few months, airlifted 25 pounder field guns to Poonch and also ran bombing sorties with their trusted Dakotas.
The squadron also flew the first Indian Army troops to Leh, and the second landing in Leh was done by Wing Commander Bhatia. Karori Lal was later awarded the Vir Chakra along with many pilots of the Squadron. The award was announced in January 1950 when India became a republic and the Gallantry Awards were instituted.
The Kashmir Operations ended with Karori Lal being made the Station Commander at the Agra Airbase. The Transport Squadron operating under him had won 13 out of 19 Vir Chakras awarded to the IAF for its heroic deeds in the Kashmir Operations.
This air hero died young at the age of 34 years. In March 1948, his Dakota had been hit by the enemy artillery fire while flying to Srinagar and he was wounded with shrapnel. He was evacuated to Srinagar and operated upon. However, small shrapnel remained embedded with one of his lungs undetected which infected his lungs and caused malignant cancer. In December 1953 he was flown to Tata’s Institute at Bombay and from there to London for the treatment. He was operated twice but the disease spread fast, damaging his entire respiratory system and other vital organs. He breathed his last on 20th Jan 1954.
Karori Lal Bhatia is a legend in the IAF. During his short stint of ten years he flew every type of aircraft that operated in the Indian theatre. From Tiger Moths to Piston powered Wapitis, he flew Blenheims, Harvards, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Dakotas, Vampires and even the gigantic Liberators. In fact he holds the record of having flown nineteen different types of aircraft and clocked 2842 hours of flying.
And now Biju Babu. Yes, he did play a very important role in the Kashmir operations. His role was much more important and decisive than what is being wrongly attributed to him. It was he who suggested to Nehru to summon all the operating civilian aircraft to Delhi for the Kashmir operations. There were about a dozen private operators, mostly flying Dakotas, who were running flights in different places in the country. Private airlines like Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Indian National Airways, Air India, Air Services of India, Assam Airways, Indamer Airways, Jamair and Dharbhanga Aviation were flying surplus World War II Dakotas.
At Biju Patnaik’s insistence, Sardar Patel issued a command on All India Radio requisitioning all civilian aircraft. They were summoned to New Delhi and parked at the Wellingdon (Safdargunj) Airport, from where sorties were made to Kashmir. Biju Babu supervised the operations. In fact the seeds of nationalization and merging the private airlines were sown during this period.
Biju Babu saved the day for India by the massive airlifts that were carried on in the first few months of the invasion, when the entire valley was landlocked due to winter. Everything that the troops required including coal, kerosene, mules and vegetables besides the ammunition was carried by these workhorses. Biju Babu undertook many flights himself.
Group Captain Bhatia’s flight Log Books are available at the IAF archives, in fact they are also on the internet. There are no records of Biju Babu’s flying career, except the legends. Incidentally, my research says that the first flight that Biju Babu made, he carried a dozen mules and hay for the pack animals. No small deed this, these were as vital for the troops as the ammunition and fuel.
It is about time that an official biography of Biju Babu should be commissioned. It is heartbreaking to see so many false things being written about him. He deserves much better. In his lifetime, Biju Babu was a voracious reader, but he seldom wrote. However, during my research, I was amazed by the sheer volume that has been written about him by other pilots of the Second World War. I have many books which have anecdotes and stories about his daredevilry. He deserves much more and much better than what all is being dished out about him. Asking for the conferring the Bharat Ratna an honour that is rightly deserved, should not be on falsities. There are many truths and facts which can be the base for such demands.
Bhubaneswar 28th June: Bhubaneswar based historian and researcher Anil Dhir has written to the Chief Minister of Odisha for converting the old house of the Gandhian Mohamed Baji at Nabrangpur into a memorial museum. In his letter, Dhir has said that in the death of Mohamed Baji, the nation and Odisha has lost one of the last Gandhian freedom fighter. He was one person who took Gandhiji’s freedom struggle to a small corner of the country and conducted a persistent and lengthy struggle for which he was jailed for nearly 2000 days. He was among the freedom fighters that underwent the maximum incarceration for his struggles.
Even after independence, he kept the flame of the Gandhian movement alight. His role in the Bhoodan movement, the temperance movement, the Ram Janmabhoomi Andalon, eradication of Untouchability and the Cow Protection efforts are laudable. In his death we have lost a keeper of the flame, a true nationalist and a great human being. Dhir is writing a book on the Gandhians of Odisha and had interviewed the late Gandhian two months ago.
Dhir wrote that the late Baji had stayed at the place for nearly seventy years and that the house was a centre for the satyagrahis during the freedom struggle. He has documentary evidence that eminent luminaries including Jayaprakash Narayan, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Biju Patnaik, Mahadev Desai, Thakkar Bapa, Binode Kanungo, Acharya Harihar Das, Godabarish Mishra, Laxman Naik, Sadasiv Tripathy, C.F.Andrews, J.V.Kothari, Malati Devi, Rama Devi and Sarala Devi have stayed at this place before and after independence.
The house has not been altered at all and has his old furniture, Charkha, personal habiliments and memorabilia of the early years. The loft where a hidden hand operated printing press had been kept to print pamphlets still exists.
Very few people outside Koraput knew about him, he was a self effacing person who denied all offers of public office and remained in this small corner of the state, working tirelessly for the ideals which he had upheld all his life. Dhir also requested the Government of Odisha to make a formal request to the Ministry of Posts for issuing a Commemorative Postage Stamp on this great personality.
Even the Old Jail, where Baji had been imprisoned many times still exists. It has been abandoned and is now a part of the Revenue office. This building too is intact and can be converted into a Museum.
Amiya Bhusan Tripathy, the State Convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural heritage (INTACH) too has said that it will be a befitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary if Mohamed Baji’s house is converted into a peace memorial. He said that INTACH will be glad to offer all assistance for any such project.
“THE BEST WAY TO FIND YOURSELF IS TO LOSE YOURSELF IN THE SERVICE OF OTHERS”: GANDHI
Bhubaneswar,27/06/19:The Indian freedom struggle has its heroes, but countless freedom fighters, who had fearlessly fought and taken down the most potent and exploitative imperialistic regime were silently sent into oblivion after independence. They did not seek reward or recognition. The 102 years old Centenarian, Mohammed Baji of Nabrangpur was one such example, he was amongst the last of this dying tribe.
I had met him a few months ago. He was just a gentle old man with a charming smile, and a sacrifice that sat lightly on his ageing shoulders. A devout Gandhian, he had actively taken part in the freedom struggle, and post-independence, continued serving the down trodden humanity on the principles laid down by Mahatma Gandhi. Influenced by Gandhi's approach of non-violence from his schooldays, he had made up his mind to meet him. At the age of 21 years, he along with his friend Lakshman Sahu, cycled around 350 kms amid thick forests and hilly terrain to reach Raipur in Chhattisgarh. Baji recalled, “From there we took a train to Wardha and went on to Sewagram. Many great people were at his ashram. We were awed and worried, apprehensive if we would meet him. They were sent to Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s Secretary, who allowed us to go near Gandhi during his 5 p.m. evening walk.”
“But the man walked so fast! My run was his walk. Finally, I could no longer keep up and appealed to him: Please stop: I have come all the way from Orissa just to see you,” Baji said. Gandhi teasingly told the young man, what have you seen? I too, am a human being, two hands, two legs, and a pair of eyes. Are you a Satyagrahi? Baji replied that he had pledged to be one.
“Go,’ said Gandhi. ‘Jao, lathi khao. Sacrifice for the nation.’ Seven days later, Baji returned home to do exactly as Gandhi had told him.He organised a Satyagraha in an anti-war protest outside the Nabrangpur Masjid. It led to “six months in jail and a Rs. 50 fine. Not a small amount those days. Many more episodes followed. On one occasion, people gathered to attack the police, Baji stepped in and stopped them. ‘Marenge lekin maarenge nahin,’ he said to the crowd. Coming out of jail, he wrote to Gandhi: what now? And his reply came. ‘Go to jail again.’ So he did. This time for four months. But the third time, they did not arrest him. So he wrote to Gandhi yet again: now what? Gandhi replied: ‘take the same slogans and move amongst the people.’ And thus Baji embarked on his never ending odyssey, which has now culminated at the age of 102 years.
At the height of the Quit India Movement, Haji and his merry band took the slogans of non-violence among the masses. His group of about 30 people used to walk from village to village, spreading the gospel of non-violence and Satyagraha. The idea of India, the idea of Poorna Swaraj and the necessity of non-violent means to achieve them were spread across the remotest parts of Nabrangpur and adjoining areas. The result of this in British India was bullets, lathi charges, broken limbs and long jail terms. Haji spent nearly 2000 days as a prisoner in different jails.
On August 19, 1942, nineteen people died in the police firing at Papadahandi near Nabrangpur. Baji’s shoulder was shattered in the violence unleashed against the protesters. Over 300 were injured, many died thereafter from their wounds. Baji, along with nearly than a thousand satyagrahis, were jailed in Koraput.
He spent the next five years in various jails. He was with the legendary tribal freedom fighter Lakhan Nayak in Koraput Jail. After Lakhan Nayak’s death sentence was pronounced, he was shifted to Berhampur Jail. Haji too was sent to the Katak Jail, and released just before Independence Day on August 12, 1947.
Post-Independence, from 1955-67, he was active in the Bhoodan movement and played a leading role in collecting about four lakh acres of land and distributing it among the landless. Though a Muslim, he had launched a movement against cow slaughter. "I donated my 14 acres during the Bhoodan movement," Baji said. In 1968 he established an ashram for Adivasi and Harijan students in Bijapur.
He remained a bachelor throughout the life. He’s was a strict vegetarian and had headed the anti-cow slaughter league for years, even participating in protests in Delhi and Mumbai. He refused to accept the freedom fighter’s pension for twelve years, relenting at the insistence of his friend Biju Patnaik, who asked him to put the money to good use. When I asked him about the partition, Baji, like other Gandhians, said: "I was against the partition of the country. We had fought for the Independence of a united India, not a fragmented one."
The upsurge of communal identities in politics in the early 90’s was as disappointing for him as the partition. He was part of a 100-member peace force that was in Ayodhya during the Mandir-Masjid dispute.
“We were sitting in the tent, they tore it down. We kept sitting. They threw water on the ground and at us. They tried making the ground wet and difficult to sit on. We remained seated. Then when I went to drink some water and bent down near the tap, they smashed me on the head, fracturing my skull. I had to be rushed to hospital.”
He was not describing British brutality of 1942, but the vicious attack on him during the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, half a century later.The old Gandhian fighter, already in his mid-seventies, spent ten days in hospital and a month in a Varanasi ashram recovering from the injury to his head. But he did not hold an iota of anger as he described the events to me. I have never seen such an honest Gandhian who has dedicated his entire life for the nation. I had recorded nearly one hour of his talk, taken his blessings and promised to return. He had repeated to me what Gandhiji had told him years ago, “I am just an ordinary human being like you. Become a Satyagrahi, India needs young people like you”.
44% Of Senior Citizens Are Treated Badly in Odisha,Sources.
BERHAMPUR:Respect for the elderly is supposed to be ingrained in Indian culture, but it may not be reflected in daily life, if the results of a countrywide survey released on the eve of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day are any indication.
At 44%, almost half the elders surveyed for a Help Age India study said they were treated badly in public, while at 53%, more than half said they believed that Indian society discriminates against elders.
Those above 60, living in the Garden City of India is not a walk in the park but a nightmare. In Bengaluru, 70% of elders said they had experienced abuse and mistreatment in public spaces.
“Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.” — Sir Robert Peel.
Sir Robert Peel said, “Police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.”
As fundamental and elementary as this all sounds, I would suggest that some police leaders in this modern era may have lost sight of these basics.
More Peel wisdom: “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”
Simply stated, it’s not what you say to the public about how good you are at policing. That is very important.
It’s what the public feels about the police based upon what they see every day. Whether we want to acknowledge this or not, perception is reality to the public. Here are ten behaviours that fuel negative police image which you as a police leader can minimize or even eliminate.
10 THINGS THAT FUEL NEGATIVE POLICE IMAGE AMONG THE PUBLIC
Driving recklessly and/or unnecessary speeding in a police vehicle
Talking on a mobile device while driving a police vehicle
Texting while driving a police vehicle
Not wearing seat belts in a police vehicle
Parking the police vehicle in a no parking or handicap zone
Fueling the perception of special privilege
Accepting “police discounts”
Unsightly personal appearance
Treating individuals disrespectfully no matter the situation
Maintaining the positive image of the police has always been a challenge since the days of the first known as a Police.
With the advent of social media, this challenge is augmented exponentially. At a moment’s notice, the misdeeds of one officer can go viral across the globe without any ability to mitigate or reconcile the damage of the Uniform, criticism in public place, Group discussion etc...
What are the most common daily activities that a officers at Police Station level can use to fuel a negative impression on Police image (?).
The Police should look to all citizens in a common manner.
The duty Constable at door end of the IIC at PS should behave with politeness to all visitors as per the rule under Police reformation act.
No Senior citizen should detained even for minute to meet the Officer by the constable according to message of DGP,Odisha. A Visitor should feel when to a Police stations the politeness as well cordiality from the Police.
But last couple of month in Berhapur city it’s observed something is lacking somewhere according to our field investigation in some police stations (?).
The concern officers at PS might be thinking those publics are visiting to Police Stations means all are Un-educated, misconduct persons or may be a complainant etc..Who fully depends on us or begging Justice(?).
But they should not forget it’s their duty and does not mean that all visitors are obliged by them and forgetting to their rules which is to abide mandatory (?).
The Police Officer should remember where they all seating to give justice to public and to discharge their responsibility within the boundary of the law.
Odisha Government adopted so many flexible act for the larger interest of the public “ How one can be very closure to Police and maintain a healthy relationship” So that he or she can able to establish a good friendly relation with Police.
Recent past SP, Berhampur conducted a cordial meeting to built a constructive relationship with Public and Press as because the people of the city are very gentle and especially Berhampur Press People are very cooperative which I never experienced in compares of my other Work Stations said, SP,Mr.Pinak Mishra.
Now it’s a big question in every one’s mind if everything is good than why this kind of discussions in city(!), FACT or FALSE (?). Where is the leakage (?) which to be found very seriously by Police District Administration only. Or should we underline it may be a conspiracy to defame the existing police administration (?).
#Sir Robert Peel
#Help India Age
Bhubaneswar,For Zakia Jafri, this is the last straw. The Supreme Court’s consent to hear her plea challenging the clean chit given by the Special Investigation Team to Narendra Modi and others in the 2002 Gulbarga Society riot case has filled her with hope. In October 2017, the Gujarat High Court had rejected her pleato probe the then Chief Minister Modi’s involvement in the larger conspiracy of the riots.
For a nation that has a track record of communal and mob violence of horrific dimensions in the last two centuries, with hardly any convictions, the June 2016 judgement of the Special Court in Ahmedabad for the murder of 24 persons in the Gulbarga Society massacre was rare. The Court had pronounced 36 others as innocent.
The massacre of 69 Muslims, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, in thissociety was one of the most gruesome incidents of the Gujarat riots of 2002. At 9 a.m.on the 28 February 2002, a mob shouting slogans gathered outside the Muslim enclave situated in the Hindu-dominated Chamanpura area of Ahmedabad. The terrified residents took refuge in the home of theformer Congress MP. It was claimed that Jafri unsuccessfully made repeated attempts to contact the police, the chief minister and people at Delhi. By noon, the mob had turned violent, breached the boundary wall and attacked the residents, setting fire to the houses. The small contingent of police force remained mute spectators.
Most of the houses were torched, and 35 victims, including Jafri, were burnt alive, while 31 others went missing after the incident, later presumed to have been burnt in the carnage, bringing the total deaths to sixty nine.
The 72-year-old Jafri was no ordinary man. He was a political stalwart of Gujarat, having been a Congress MP and one of the party's top leaders.
The Society, which had been formed on Jafri’s initiative, comprised of 29 bungalows and 10 apartment buildings, housing mostly Muslim upper-middle-class business families.
Today, blackened walls of the Gulbarga society reflect the permanent divide, the wounded psyche, and the erosion that exists between the two communities. Almost all the houses are damaged or burnt, and were abandoned by the survivors. None of the families returned, even though they do congregate each year on the anniversary of the event for a memorial prayer.
“Wahan par koi nahinraheta. Kyakarogewhanja kar?” I was told by many of the Amdavadis. Nevertheless, I made my way to the deserted place with my camera. “No outsider is allowed inside the society compound or allowed to encroach on its premises. Don’t litter here. Whoever commits such offence will face action— By Order,” stated a public warning near the entry gate to the Society.
Gulbarga was no fly-by-night slum but a regular residential colony. In its prime, it was a teeming place, with prosperity and wealth. There were cars in front of each house, children played in the small swings put up. The small mosque inside the Society was the focal point of all celebrations. Today, the houses stand empty and ghost-like; charred beyond recognition. The deathly emptiness echoes the vitality it must have had over a decade ago. Even the few dogs that were around, slunked off meekly. There is an aura of melancholy and sadness around, which will take years to dispel.
The riot survivors live in desolate ghettos and resettlement colonies that remind of neglect and denial.I met Zakia Jafri, Ehsan Jafri’s wife,she was a bitter woman. She chidedthat 400 people had entered Gulbarga and only 11 were found guilty of murder. The sheer demographics of scale did not fit the judgment. Tanvir Jafri, Ehsan Jafri’s son, also commented that it was odd that 11 individuals could have enacted the murder of 69 people.
Fourteen years since they were burnt down, no one wants to buy Gulbarga’s bungalows. The society sits on prime land; any builder worth his salt would pay a king’s ransom for the plot. If the society is rebuilt, more than 500 dwellings can come up. The authorities have imposed the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, both in Naroda Patiya and the Gulbarga Society. Under this Act, home owners can sell their property only to other members of their own community – not to anyone from other communities.
The imposition of this law has spelled doom for Gulbarga Society, which was the lone Muslim-dominated housing colony in the predominantly Hindu neighborhood. The abandoned houses are completely stuck, because no Muslim will buy a home in a Hindu area, and Hindus cannot buy from Muslims.
Every other Gulbarga family chose to abandon the homes where they lost their loved ones. Most of them have been living scattered across the city, some in ghettoes and other paying for rented apartments even though they still own their property in the Society.
The plan to turn the Society into a memorial museum failed to materialise. It will be best if the government acquires the property, pays market rate compensation to the owners and builds a hospital or a college there.
Apology and forgiveness has always been a part of the Indian system. In the long battle for legal justice, forgotten werethe individual pain, trauma and permanent scar on the minds of the victims. The Gulbarga Society judgment has neithersucceeded in bringing legal justice nor got peace for the victims and society at large.
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.