In Lord Jagannath of Puri’s name, 25,000 acres, a lot of it encroached

Bhubaneswar: He is possibly the only god in India who owns so much land —25,711 acres — but Lord Jagannath is struggling to get part of it back from encroachers.

Lord Jagannath, presiding deity of the 12th century temple in Puri, is listed as a landlord in the Orissa government’s revenue records. He reportedly owns 56,000 acres, of which at least 25,711 acres is registered against the name of “Sri Jagannath Mahaprabhu Bije, Puri” in the state’s land revenue records. The temple’s managing committee headed by the Puri king manages the land on behalf of the deity. The lands are spread over 23 of Orissa’s 30 districts as well as states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

But the land mafia, allegedly helped by bureaucrats and corrupt politicians, is believed to have parcelled away at least 20 per cent of his recorded land in Orissa. Chief administrator of the temple Arvind Padhee, a senior IAS officer, decided to strike back early this week. The temple administration cleared 250 acres in Jatni area near Bhubaneswar and Delang area of Puri district. The land is worth an estimated Rs 500 crore.

“When I started clearing the area, there were goons all over the place. But we were determined to clear it,” said Padhee, who as revenue divisional commissioner, central division, has been trying to get the lord’s land records updated. Among the alleged encroachers was the son of a former Assam governor, whose stone crusher was obscuring the landscape. The anti-encroachment team’s bulldozers razed a rice processing mill, a housing society, a market complex and several dhabas that had mushroomed over the land. A head clerk working at the temple’s Jatni office, who was found guilty of conniving with the land mafia, was suspended.

Officials said the encroachers had sought to justify the land-grabbing, saying it had been authorised by the endowment commissioner under the Orissa Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1951. But Padhee cited section 16(3) of the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954, which says any transfer of immovable property recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath of Puri by any person including any institution would be null and void. As per section 2(1) of the temple Act, the provisions of the Hindu religious endowments Act are not applicable to the temple except with respect to actions taken, things done and contributions levied as such.

Padhee said the temple administration is now planning to evict encroachers from at least 1,000 acres in the next few weeks. After it is freed, the land would be sold to the general public through the Bhubaneswar Development Authority. The funds so generated would be deposited in the temple corpus fund.

Encouraged by the success of the drive, the temple administration is now in the process of identifying the remaining 30,000 acres for which there is no record of rights as yet. “Most of these lands are in districts of Puri, Khurda, Cuttack and Ganjam. If we get back the land, the lord’s would probably be the richest among all shrines in India,” Padhee said.

In Lord Jagannath of Puri’s name, 25,000 acres, a lot of it encroached
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  • Almost all under construction ROBs in Odisha running behind deadline

    BHUBANESWAR: A total of 14 road over bridges (ROBs) are under construction in different parts of the state. Out of these projects, work of only one ROB is actually maintaining the deadline. Other 13 projects are running behind the deadline.

    Of the 14 ROBs, the state government and Railways will build these over bridges with 50:50 cost sharing basis. The rest two will be funded by the state government alone. Railways construct its part on the rail line, but the state builds major parts like approach roads to the over bridges. The works department executes the projects.

    According to official sources, work of eight ROBs is delayed by more than one year. Some of these projects have crossed the deadline by three years.

    The eight ROBs are situated at Jagannathpur near Berhampur, Ranaposhi in Dhenkanal district, Budhapanka in Angul district, Gangadharpur near Balugaon, Bamulia and Soro in Balasore district, Saheed Nagar and Pokhariput in Bhubaneswar.

    The other five projects have been delayed by one to six months. It will be constructed at Gopalpur junction, Berhampur, Muribahal in Titlagarh and two others in Rourkela district.

    The 1.2 km long Saheed Nagar ROB extending towards Bomikhal and Rasulgarh is delayed by three years. Similarly, Pokhariput ROB in Old Town area in the capital city is delayed by four years.

    A senior official of the works department said the projects are getting delayed due to several issues including land dispute and design change.

    Besides these, the state government with the help of the Railways is planning to build 76 new ROBs across the state. It will float tender and start the work of another 14 ROBs soon, said the officer.

    Works minister Prafulla Kumar Mallik said he has asked for a report from his department officials about the condition and status of the old and ongoing ROBs in the state to take necessary steps about the safety of these over bridges. “I know work of some ROBs is delayed for a year and two years. I will review the status of all the ROBs and speed up the construction work as soon as possible,” he added.

    Mallik said his department has already started the process to complete the works of the over bridges within the latest deadline. “Our government is working on it,” he added.

  • In historic move, Odisha gives land rights to 2,000 slum dwellers

    BHUBANESWAR: In an unprecedented move described by industrialist Ratan Tata as ‘earth-shaking’, and which prompted Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to take recourse to British author Aldous Huxley, Odisha on Monday provided land rights certificates to 2,000 landless slum dwellers and promised to develop modern urban habitats complete with roads, street lights, parks and playgrounds for them.

    The initiative is the culmination of the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2017, notified in October last year, and is expected to help the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the assembly and Lok Sabha election scheduled for early next year. Under the Act, the government had promised to give 45 square metre of land to landless slum dwellers in municipal towns and 60 square metre in notified area councils (smaller towns).

    The government on Monday also launched the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission to ensure liveable communities and infrastructure in slums. Naveen, who handed over the land documents to the first lot of beneficiaries from nine small towns in the Puri and Ganjam districts at an event in Chhatrapur, said, “As chief minister, I would love to see Odisha at the vanguard of creating a brave new world.”

    His sentiments were echoed by Tata, whose Tata Trusts was given the task of surveying the feasibility of the Act. “Odisha as a progressive state will certainly fulfill the hopes and aspirations of slum dwellers who are the lifeline of cities,” the pioneer said. Terming the occasion as ‘historic’, Tata assured “wholehearted support’ of Tata Trusts to ‘convert the dream of the chief minister into reality’.

    Besides Tata, the event was attended by visionary British architect Norman Foster and state government dignitaries and officials. “Odisha’s initiative will have a ripple effect across the world. It will give a signal to the global community and aid their involvement in this kind of legislation (giving land rights and homes to the landless),” Foster said.

    Though several states have extended land rights to the landless, Odisha’s move to provide slum dwellers with modern urban facilities is the first of its kind in the country, the government said. The state government plans to extend the benefits to one million slum dwellers (around three lakh families) across 2,500 slums within a year.

    In March, the government signed an MoU with Tata Trusts for support on slum redevelopment. The Madrid-based Norman Foster Foundation, which has expertise in urban design and architecture, has also shown an interest in the project. “We will work out the modalities on how the foundation can be involved,” said housing and urban development secretary G Mathivathanan.

    The state’s intervention would go far beyond giving slum dwellers land rights. “Through Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission, the government will ensure the best-possible modern infrastructure for redeveloping slums into proper living spaces,” he added.

    Slum rights activists, however, expressed skepticism about the government’s move. “This can be a pioneering model if implemented with sincerity. But the government has given land rights to only a handful of people, with the election a year away. I don’t think the ambitious goals it has set can be met so quickly,” said Pramila Behera, general secretary of Basti Suraksha Manch, an outfit working for the well-being of slum dwellers.

  • Odisha eyes CPDO land for stadium expansion

    BHUBANESWAR: The state government has requested the Central Poultry Development Organization (CPDO) to hand over 10 acres of its land adjoining Kalinga Stadium for developing infrastructure for the men's hockey World Cup, scheduled from November 28 to December 16.

    Sources in the state sports and youth affairs department said the CPDO land would be used as VIP parking area for around 2000 cars during the mega event. A new gate for access to the west stand of Kalinga Stadium is also likely to be developed from the CPDO campus side.

    In a letter to Tarun Sridhar, Union secretary of animal husbandry, Odisha chief secretary A P Padhi said a survey of the CPDO area has already been completed. "The required area of little more than 10 acres has also been demarcated. It is requested that the area may please be handed over to the state government immediately," Padhi wrote.

    The chief secretary has stated that in a recent meeting between the state government and CPDO authorities, it has also been decided to relocate the poultry unit to an appropriate location on the city's outskirts.

    The department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries under the Union ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare has already constituted a site selection committee to identify a new location for the CPDO unit.

    A sports department official said they are planning a world class football stadium, recently announced by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, at the CPDO land spread over around 30 acres.

    "For the hockey World Cup, we won't put up a permanent structure at the CPDO land so that it can be used for further expansion of the Kalinga Stadium Sports Complex," a sports department official said.

    The state government has also requested the CPDO to complete the site selection process for relocation of its unit within a month. The state government intends to develop required infrastructure at the new site within six months so that the CPDO could be shifted from Bhubaneswar to the new site by the end of December.

  • Inching towards a smarter, more equal city

    BHUBANESWAR: The state capital shared its knowledge of the proposed development plan for a smart Janpath, social equity and street art and mural at the first apex conference of smart cities in Bhopal.

    This is the first knowledge exchange platform since the inception of the Smart Cities project in June 2015. The national event is expected to help the Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL), which is the implementing agency of the smart city project, learn the best practices adopted by other smart cities and try to replicate them.

    On behalf of BSCL, additional commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) Subham Saxena gave a presentation on the smart Janpath concept. "This would include redesigning roads, landscaping and beautification. This will ensure a safe, comfortable access for all sections of commuters. More focus will be laid on creating facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. The present traditional automobile-oriented road will undergo a transformation," BSCL sources said.

    As per the concept, the total width of the Janpath varies between 35 metres and 65 metres. While 21 metres space is mandatory for vehicular traffic and two metres for median, the remaining space will be utilized for creating bicycle lanes, pedestrian paths, parking, landscaping, utility corridors and vendor kiosks. "The estimated cost of the project is Rs 80.50 crore. The work is expected to be complete within two years," officials said.

    The BSCL officials further said the apex conference helped recapitulate all the experiences of the past two and half years that went into conceptualizing, ideating, planning and implementing various projects. "The constraints faced by the smart cities officials were shared and solutions sought and discussed. The churning of the ideas will help simplify the implementation of project in the respective cities," said an official.

    The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is a catalyst for transformation that will digitally integrate various facilities enjoyed by citizens. "Different cities have different priorities and based on those, the projects have been designed. For example, people here prioritized smart mobility as one of the focus areas of development in the run-up to becoming a smart city. So, smart Janpath and multi-modal hubs were planned," explained the official.

  • Dharmendra Pradhan bats for second airport, MRO unit in Odisha capital

    BHUBANESWAR: Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan has urged the Union civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu to set up another airport close to Bhubaneswar citing that the existing Biju Patnaik International airport is facing near saturation in terms of future growth.

    “The airport was commissioner in the state capital in 1962 and now it faces severe space and runway related constraints. There is an urgent need to set up another airport given the tremendous potential the smart city has. I think the process of identifying a suitable land is on but it should be expedited as making an airport would take a lot of time,” Pradhan writes.

    His letters reveals that in 2017-18 fiscal, 3.25 million passengers flew in both domestic and international flights. He terms it fastest growth. “The air traffic and passenger flow have increased in recent times,” the letter said.

    The state government had asked the CMD, Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco) twice to look for a suitable patch of land for the creation of new international airport. The new airport will require 1,500-2,000 acre land, according to Airports Authority of India (AAI).

    In 2015, The AAI informed the state government that the land proposed for the new airport Malipada was unsuitable. Then also, Idco had selected the location. But, the government made another request to AAI, which turned down saying the selected land was not feasible.

    Currently, 30 domestic flights and one international of as many as six carriers are running the operations from here. The airport recently proposed expansion of runway and creation of parallel taxiway. But, it is facing difficulties to acquire land.

    Recently, Pradhan had requested Prabhu to plan for an airport at industrial town Paradip, which is considered a hub of economic growth. The Paradip Port Trust is keen to provide the required land for the airport. “I have had discussion with AAI chairman and the Paradip Port Trust on development of new airport,” Pradhan has said in the letter.

    Pradhan in his letter also has also stressed on setting up Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) unit, Airline Skilling Institutes, Flight Kitchens and Parking Bays adjacent to the existing airport.

    In the absence of MRO, the aircrafts have to be flown to Kolkata for year maintenance, which is not cost effective, said a source.

  • BMC holding tax to go online from June

    BHUBANESWAR: The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Thursday decided to do away with physical transaction of holding tax collection and activate its online system from June in a bid to reduce manual work and help taxpayers clear their dues on time.

    Holding tax is collected from individual households, business establishments, commercial centres, shops, malls, private and government offices on the basis of plinth area covered. It is a major component of revenue for the civic body. It collected Rs 42 crore in holding tax in the 2017-18 financial year.

    To ensure 100% online collection of holding tax and furnishing of related data of the taxpayers, the BMC issued an order scrapping the manual system. "Firstly, it will help us collect last-minute dues from people as they can do so by opening the online gateway. Secondly, we won't have to use pen and paper to maintain tax records and track defaulters. The partner bank sends us the transaction statement about the online payment made. We manually record them in the register, at present. But after mandatory online application, we will furnish the payment details, in e-municipality module, which has the facility to store data in soft form," said BMC deputy commissioner Srimanta Mishra.

    Though the civic body had set a target of collecting Rs 45 crore as holding tax in the 2017-18 financial year, it received only Rs 42 crore. It had put up hoarding bearing the names of the tax defaulters, but that didn't help collect the pending dues. "A week before the end of the financial year, we had put up the names of 253 defaulters. Of that, only one individual turned up to pay the dues. Once the holding tax payment is made compulsorily online, the defaulters intending to pay the dues in the last moment can do so," said an official of BMC.

    The civic body started receiving holding tax online since 2015. But it hasn't been a success as most of the work related to the tax record is still handled manually.


  • Odisha CM Naveen to inaugurate Gurupriya bridge next month

    BHUBANESWAR: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik will inaugurate the much-touted Gurupriya bridge on the river Gurupriya in Malkangiri district next month, state works minister Prafulla Kumar Mallik said on Monday after attending a review meeting at the state secretariat. Construction work of the 910-metre-long bridge will be completed by end of this month.

    CM Naveen reviewed the progress of the bridge work in the meeting and asked the department to speed up the project work.

    The bridge will connect as many as 151 villages across the Balimela reservoir with the main land of Malkangiri. It will be the lifeline for more than 20,000 inhabitants of these cut-off area villages. People depend on the ferry boats to visit Chitrakonda or Malkangiri for medical, marketing and other purposes.

    The state government has faced criticism for delay in the project. Former chief minister JB Patnaik had laid the foundation stone of the bridge in 1982. Later, Naveen again laid the stone in 2000. The work, however, could not start for years due to Maoist threats.

    The state government had to float tenders eight times for the project. Presently, a Kolkata-based company has been doing the construction work under heavy security cover, said a senior officer of the works department.

    Finally, the work of the project was started in 2014. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 172.58 crore. The government had set a target to complete it within three years, but the project work crossed deadline for more than three times due to collapse of a part of the bridge.

    It will also help the security personnel to take on left wing extremists in the cut-off region. They can easily enter into the cut-off area by their vehicles and conduct operations. Cut-off area is the strong-hold of the Maoists. The red rebels had ambushed Greyhounds, an elite commando force to combat Maoists, on June 29, 2008, killing 38. They had even abducted the then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna in 2011.


  • Odisha govt silent on capital cooperative housing 'scam' probe The office of the RCS began an inquiry against CCHL after receiving a complaint from whistle-blower Jayant Pattanaik, who was also one of the directors of the society, in May 2017Debabrata Mohapatra | TNN | Updated: May 15, 2018, 17:54 IST

    BHUBANESWAR: Three months have passed since the registrar of cooperative societies (RCS) found transaction of banned currency notes worth nearly Rs 32 lakh by Capital Cooperative Housing Ltd (CCHL) — a private society here — in a dubious land deal, and urged the cooperation department to lodge a complaint against the firm with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW). The department, however, is yet to hand over the probe to the EOW, triggering allegations of a possible cover-up among a section of CCHL members.

    The office of the RCS began an inquiry against CCHL after receiving a complaint from whistle-blower Jayant Pattanaik, who was also one of the directors of the society, in May 2017. Pattanaik lodged separate complaints with the RCS and the CBI, alleging that CCHL had fraudulently sold nearly an acre of land near KIIT Magnet Square at throwaway prices to close associates. He alleged that CCHL had accepted banned currency from the buyers.

    “We had given the assistant registrar of cooperative societies the job of conducting an inquiry against CCHL. As per the inquiry report, the conspiracy aimed at regularizing banned currency notes amounting to Rs 32 lakh and getting hold of valuable land belonging to the society at Raghunathpur Jali here. The findings may be considered prima facie evidence and referred to the EOW for a proper investigation,” reads an official letter sent by the RCS to the cooperation department’s commissioner-cum-secretary on February 17 this year. TOI possesses a copy of the letter.

    “I am not the competent authority to refer the case to the EOW. I just forwarded the inquiry report to the commissioner-cum-secretary, who is authorized to hand over the case to the EOW,” RCS Tribikram Pradhan told TOI. On being contacted, the cooperation department’s commissioner-cum-secretary Ranjana Chopra said she would look into the matter. “I will go through the file and see what progress has been made,” she told TOI.

    Some CCHL members, who had deposited money with the society several years ago to get land in Bhubaneswar, said the department was showing undue favours to the firm. “We have been waiting for years to get land from the society. But it hurriedly enrolled some new members and sold them prime land worth nearly Rs 7.5 crore near KIIT Square at very cheap rates. Those who got the land resold the plots to builders. This is a big scam,” said a member, requesting anonymity.

    CCHL president Drutiranjan Mohanty denied the charges. “We have not committed any illegal act. The land was sold to our society members as per law. The inquiry report against us is incorrect. If the government engages the EOW, we will cooperate in the probe,” he said.

  • 1.07 lakh Odisha families get homestead land IANS | Updated: May 16, 2018, 08:31 IST

    BHUBANESWAR: The Odishagovernment on Tuesday said 1.07 lakh homesteadless families have been provided with house sites in rural areas in the last four years.

    Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Maheswar Mohanty said the state government had identified 1.10 lakh homesteadless families during a survey in 2015.

    "The balance 2,837 families will be provided with house sites by August 31 this year," he added.

    Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday reviewed the performance of the Revenue Department here.

    He said the department has taken steps to conduct a fresh survey from May 15 to June 15 to identify homesteadless families for distribution of sites.

    The minister said Disaster Resilient Houses have been provided to 16,568 cyclone Phailin affected families in Ganjam and Khurda districts while 879 Multi-Purpose Cyclone/Flood Shelters have been constructed at vulnerable places in the state.

    Besides, Advanced Disaster Warning Systems have been set up at 162 locations in 22 blocks of six coastal districts, Mohanty said.

  • Drains clogged by trash, Cuttack residents call for urgent desilting TNN | Updated: May 17, 2018, 10:33 IST
    Locals wade through a water-logged Roxy lane

    Cuttack: Delay in the desiltation drive on city drains, to be undertaken by the Cuttack Municipal Corporation, has resulted in a nightmarish situation for residents. Most of the drains are choked with garbages, as the monsoon is likely to arrive early.

    Corporators allege that more than 70 per cent of the drains in the city are choked. The desiltation process, which is generally taken up by March-end or the first week of April, is supposed to end in May, with the onset of monsoon.

    The Nor'westers have already resulted in many of the city drains overflowing. Several low-lying areas in the city, like Buxi Bazar, Stewartpatna, Bajrakabati, Friends Colony and Kehsarpur, are routinely water-logged. "The situation will only grow worse with the oncoming rains," said Giribala Behera, corporator of ward four.

    "We have requested the commissioner that there is a dire need to start work by this week or else will protest against the delay," added Behera.

    In 2007, Cuttack residents experienced the worst-ever case of waterlogging, with most parts of the city submerged during the monsoon showers due to choked drains. Cuttack has a network of 25-km-long storm water channels, 29 km of branch drains and 72 km of tertiary drains.

    The civic body spends over a crore in a year in removing silt from the main and branch storm water channels.

    Admitting the delay, CMC commissioner Bikash Mohapatra said the Odisha water supply and sewage board has been notified. "Several major drains are under construction by the. We will hold discussions by them and they will be desilting of the major drains in the city," said Mohapatra.

    Small drains in various places will be the desilted by the CMC, added Mohapatra.

  • No city from Odisha gets any top rank in Swachh Survekshan 2018 Hemanta Pradhan| TNN | May 17, 2018, 10:18 IST
    BHUBANESWAR: Not a single city of Odisha received top rank in the Swachh Survekshan 2018 conducted by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA). The result of the survey was declared by Union urban affairs minister Hardeep Puri in New Delhi on Wednesday.

    This Swachh Survekshan assessed 4,203 urban local bodies during the survey. The exercise was undertaken between January 4 and March 10 this year. Last year Swachh Survekshan was conducted in 434 cities.
    Indore became the cleanest city of the country followed by Bhopal and Chandigarh. New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) was adjudged as the cleanest city among municipal bodies with less than three lakh population, while Greater Mumbai became the cleanest among all state capitals.

    Mysuru has emerged as the cleanest among cities with population of three lakh to one million. Not a single city from Odisha got a good rank even in the zonal level.

    Last year, the smartest city of the country Bhubaneswar had received 94 rank under the Swachh Survekshan 2017. Ranks of other cities were- Rourkela (168), Berhampur-187, Balasore-190, Puri-194, Cuttack-204, Baripada-261, Sambalpur-322 and Bhadrak-349.

    Housing and urban development secretary G Mathivathanan said he will comment on the issue after going through the report. “I have not gone through the whole report. I have to find out which city got good or bad rank,” he added.

    Bhubaneswar mayor A N Jena said Bhubaneswar gets less ranking due to lack of a solid waste treatment plant in the city. “We have been trying to set up a solid waste treatment plant for the city during last five years, but it can’t take off due to protest of local people. But we will try to solve the issue to get good ranking in the national survey,” he added.

  • Commuters risk life and limb on dilapidated bridge in Jagatsinghpur TNN | Updated: May 17, 2018, 10:16 IST The bridge over the Devi is missing a few concrete slabs

    KENDRAPARA: A 35-year-old bridge over the Devi river in Alipingal village of Jagatsinghpur district is on the verge of collapse. That, however, has not stopped people from risking their lives and using it.

    Not just people, buses, overladen trucks and other heavy vehicles take the 458-meter-long bridge every day, imperilling it further. "Concrete slabs are missing in six places on the bridge. It has been like that since last year. Some parapets of the bridge caved in two years ago but the officials are yet to make any repairs," said Basant Sahoo, a resident of Alipingal.

    Saroj Nayak of Alipingal said passengers had no alternative but to use the bridge to cross the river. "Due to substandard construction and lack of proper maintenance, the bridge is now in a dilapidated state. Iron rods inside the concrete slabs are protruding out from the top of the bridge. The exposed rods themselves pose a threat to the motorists," he explained.

    "While cracks have developed on the pillars of the bridge, the authorities refuse to admit that plying of heavy vehicles can cause further damage," said Maheswar Behera of Alipingal.

    A large number of villagers of Alipingal, Sithalo, Eakbarua, Saradaelo, Raniola, Barisana, Kasadra and other gram panchayats depend on the bridge, built in the 1980s, to cross the Devi.

    When contacted, the assistant engineer (roads and buildings), Jagatsinghpur division, Saroj Kumar Dandapata, said, "The bridge was designed for light vehicles only. Now, the bridge has become unsafe for commuters due to the plying of heavy vehicles, especially sand-laden dumpers and trucks. The bridge trembles every time heavy vehicles move on it. We have asked the district administration to stop heavy vehicles from plying the bridge. We have also recently started repairs on it."

  • Odisha govt to spend Rs 75,000 crore in five years for development of water resources

    BHUBANESWAR: After drawing flak from various quarters over poor river management, the state government on Thursday said it would spend over Rs 75,000 crore for development of water resource in the next five years. Several dam projects would be taken up on Mahanadi basin, its tributaries and other major rivers to ensure irrigation and drinking water for people, said an official source.

    According to a statement issued by the chief minister’s office, chief minister Naveen Patnaik has directed the state water resources department to prepare a comprehensive river policy in next three months with potential places where water resources projects can be developed.

    The announcement came a day after launching protest against the Chhattisgarh for obstructing flow of Mahanadi water into Odisha by constructing barrages on the upstream. During his visit to Jharsuguda on Wednesday, Naveen reviewed irrigation and drinking water projects in four districts—Sambalpur, Bargarh, Jharsuguda and Sundargarh--in presence of senior state government officials and district collectors.

    Though the state government is yet to reveal detail river management plan, sources said over Rs 400 crore would be spent in next three years for modernization of Bargarh Main Canal and Sasan canal as it develops frequent breaches creating panic among farmers in Bargarh and Sambalpur districts. The canal system was developed during 1950s during construction of Hirakud reservoir.

    According to sources, the chief minister has directed the water resources department to expedite implementation of the Ong irrigation project near Padampur sub-division in Bargarh district, proposed way back in 1945 with a new design to avoid submergence. Over 2,000 crore would be spent in the project, which at its current design would submerge around 30000 villagers. Villagers, who fear to be displaced due to the project, recently urged President Ram Nath Kovind to either direct the project to be deferred or give them permission for euthanasia.

    “Though several major and medium irrigation projects were proposed by successive governments since past several decades, most of these projects could not be taken off due to issues like land acquisition, displacement and rehabilitation. The chief minister has directed to look for places to take up barrages over Mahanadi and its tributaries and distributaries which would cause minimum displacement. We would soon start survey for potential places,” said an official in the water resources department requesting anonymity.

    Recently, water resources secretary P K Jena announced to execute seven projects over Mahanadi to ensure irrigation and drinking water. Besides, as many as 22 other projects, which are under various stages of implementation on various rivers, are targeted to complete in next five years. These projects include Tel integrated irrigation project in Nabrangpur district, Kharga (Kandhamal), Salki (Kandhamal and Boudh), Ret Utei (Kalahandi), Lower Lanth and Upper Lanth in Balangir district besides Ong, Jira and Ranjore projects in Bargarh district.

    The chief minister also advised to start tender process of the Gangadhar Meher Megalift Canal System in three months. The first of its kind project planned with an investment of Rs 1250 crore would ensure irrigation in about 25,000 hectares in drought-prone lands in Bijepur, Sohela and Barpali blocks in Bargarh district.

    Water conservation activist Ranjan Kumar Panda said more than construction-oriented activities, the state government should focus more on recharging and rejuvenation of water bodies, natural streams to conserve water.


  • Smart cities fail cleanliness test

    BHUBANESWAR: Among the cities that had taken part in the Swachh Survekshan were two smart cities from the state - Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. But none of them figure in the list of toppers when the rankings were announced on Wednesday. No wonder the knives are out thick and fast, aimed at the state government.

    The BJP said the latest survey exposes the state's failure to ensure good standards of sanitation in cities and towns across the state.

    "While the state government is doing so much to publicise Bhubaneswar as the smartest city, the sanitation here has gone for a toss. Garbage here gets collected from the doorstep by four private agencies, but they are dumping the waste at different places at their own convenience. The Naveen Patnaik government has failed to establish a solid waste treatment plant in the state capital. The situation is worse in other cities," state BJP vice-president Sameer Mohanty said.

    "The government has failed to commission a proper sewerage network in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, making ground water vulnerable. The frequent outbreak of jaundice in Sambalpur and Cuttack exposes the spread of contaminated water in those districts," Mohanty added.

    Reacting to the charges, housing and urban development minister Niranjan Pujari said, "In the last two Survekshans our ranking has improved. This year the final ranking is yet to be announced and only the names of the toppers have been announced in different categories. We would be looking at the areas where we were found lacking and will see where we can improve."

    Bhubaneswar mayor Ananta Narayan Jena said lack of a solid waste treatment plant (WTP) remained the biggest hurdle to the city's aspiration to be ranked higher. "Also, the city is yet to be declared open defecation free, which has prevented it from making it to the toppers list," Jena said.

    "Bhubaneswar might have lost 500 marks due to non-existing solid waste treatment plant and its related parameters. The solid waste management plant could not be taken up due to protests by villagers at the proposed plant site in Daruthenga. But the final rankings are yet to be announced and we can still do well," said Srimanta Mishra, deputy commissioner, BMC.

    As far as the people of Bhubaneswar are concerned, they are not too happy with the cleanliness and sanitation. "Spread of slums has led to an increase in open defecation. The drainage is so bad that a brief spell of rain can submerge low-lying areas," said Dilip Dashsharma, general secretary, VSS Nagar Development Committee.


  • Check files online as Smart City office goes paperless Riyan Ramanath V| TNN | Updated: May 20, 2018, 12:26 IST A BSCL source said there are instances of files being stuck at clerical levels because of burden and forgetfulness.

    BHUBANESWAR: In a smart move, the Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited (BSCL) has started an e-office to pave way for paperless work in all smart city-related projects. The movement of soft files from bottom to top is now monitored on the screen.

    The chief executive officer (CEO) of BSCL R Vineel Krishna inaugurated the office. Since the smart city office will be a hub that will see files coming from several departments, the e-office will save time that is consumed in physical movement of the files, said an official.

    "Different departments work in convergence with BSCL. Mostly, the local civic body and Bhubaneswar Development Authority bring files for clearance and approval," said an officer of BSCL.

    In the long run, when other offices with smart city work set up e-offices, the work will be smoother and hassle-free, said the official.

    "Now, the paperless work will be limited to the BSCL office. The various sections of BSCL, dealing with projects, will be able to see movement of files online. It can be tracked where a particular file is stuck and the reason can also be known," the official added.

    Krishna said, "The e-office would ensure transparency and lead to better coordination among departments."

    Another official said since the smart city would be a model for smart and healthy living, the e-office indirectly will help provide support to the green initiatives.

    "Once the paperwork is curtailed, there won't be any need for huge dustbins. There won't be concern to preserve paper files in bulks. A lot of space can also be saved," the official said.

    A BSCL source said there are instances of files being stuck at clerical levels because of burden and forgetfulness.

    "The e-office system will allow us to get alerts on a particular file and what is the level of urgency. It also lets us know the deadline of dispatching any letter or putting up a file," added the official.