Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The challenge is to make ‘farming’ the ‘preferred occupation’

Sometimes in the early 1990s, I was among the few farmers chosen to undergo a training on hybrid paddy cultivation. Prior to that, I had already started demonstration cultivation of hybrid paddy. Then my district, Sonepur, was geographically divided into two distinct parts by the Mahanadi River. There was no bridge then. I was selected as the representative farmer of my block. The training was scheduled towards the end of July at the DAO office in Sonepur. The river was in spate. Boats were not making ferries. Being a young and enthusiastic farmer, I somehow managed to persuade few boatmen, who were known to me, to ferry us across. We (the farmers) were present at the venue by the stipulated time. But the scientists (who were to train us) or the officers (who were to manage us) were nowhere in sight. They reached at about 12 noon. The meeting started more than 2 hours behind the schedule. As soon as the meeting formally started, I stood up and raised my protest for the delayed start. The Chairman found an excuse in inclement weather for their delay in arriving. When I pointed out that the weather was no different to us and in addition we had to cross a violent Mahanadi river and still made up to the venue in time, the officer told me “that’s why we are paying you 25 rupees for attending the meeting.” I lost my sense of decency and immediately turned the big table on the people sitting on the dais, which included the officer. After they regained their posture, I told them, “Officer, look at my pant and shirt pockets. I can put many officers like you in each of those pockets. And you show me 25 rupees? And if at all you expect me to be present in time just because you are paying me 25 rupees, then my government is paying you in hundreds to do the same thing. Why aren’t you then reaching in time?” It was a different matter that in spite of being a ‘big farmer’, my earning was only a fraction of what the officer earned and thus my thundering that I keep officers like him in my pocket was had no truthfulness.

But the reaction was the outcome of an aggrieved and avid farmer whose self esteem was badly hurt by an arrogant officer. In that case the officer beg apology and I accepted that. But the broad point here is that farmers in Orissa are treated that way most often. I mean they are treated with disdain in every sphere. That was not the only instance when I had to face such situation and such approach. I had to assert myself to restore my dignity each time I was faced with similar situation. My personal experience is that very few farmers are treated well by the officers and the authority. And most often than naught, such lucky farmers are engaged in other professions, like legal, polity, teaching etc. And whatever respects that they get accrue from the non-farming profession.

Ironically, the level of respect for a farmer is declining with each passing time. This is an outcome of linking respect with money and not with nobleness of the profession. The general perception is that those who do not find engagement anywhere find engagement in farming. Since, respect is being weighted in terms of money, even a mere gutkha shop owner commands more respect than a farmer. It is an irony that producers of the most necessary item for human survival get less respect than those whose services are not required or less required for survival or existence.

Since, CAPITAL has become ‘the word’ in every social and commercial dealings; farmer is getting more and more stressed as CAPITAL is eluding the farmer even with a lot of energy and expenditure. When even a peon has the ability to give good schooling to his wards, a farmer – how so ever big he may be - struggles. And that is not very easy to cope with these days.

The farmer has also tried to grow with new ideas and technologies. But the laws of economics and engineering innovations, that so well bolster other sectors, fail to apply that way in case of agriculture. The demand-supply mechanism is quite complex in agriculture. Even if you can somehow assess the demand, it is very difficult to get an idea of supply – considering numerous pulls in the production and supply chain and the gross unorganized nature of the sector. Unlike other sectors, utilization of new technology does not reduce the cost of agriculture production. But the farmer is forced to adopt those these days. Climatic factors and reduction in soil nutrient has made things more difficult. While the expenditure has gone up in one upward direction, the income has not only failed to correspond to expenditure but also has become more unstable. While purchasing power of everybody else has gone up, the farmers have been left lurching. In such circumstances, the stress on the farmer is becoming suffocating.

A close look at the profile of the farmers who have killed themselves clearly reveals this aspect. Most farmers were ‘farmers only’. Not like me who earns part from agriculture and part from elsewhere. They did not have a pan-shop, they did not collect and sell firewood, they did not work in unskilled job opportunities like the NREGS. They only toiled and more toiled in their agriculture fields. And they lost there. They did not have a supplementary or substitute options elsewhere. They did not want compassion. They wanted respect for their profession. But that element stayed wanting.

What the government is doing is nothing. At best it can be termed as a humiliating compassion. What else will you term the government’s declaration to compensate Rs 800 for a hectare of lost kharif crop? What is the value of Rs 800? Seed alone costs at least 125 percent more than that.

Our government takes pride in having a comprehensive agriculture policy? A new policy has replaced the earlier one. But the fate of agriculture has only deteriorated further. This will continue to happen as long as agriculture is seen merely as the sector giving employment to more than 70 percent of the workforce. Agriculture has to be seen differently. Agriculture has to be seen as social service. Those who render such service have to be considered as first class citizen. And if CAPITAL determines class of a citizen, then such environment has to be created where the farmer becomes a capitalist - with a lot of surplus money. In other words, farming has to be the preferred profession.

I believe that when farming will again become the preferred profession, we will have less farmer suicides. And that can happen only when a farmer’s purchasing power increases at par with other occupations. It will be great if we decide on ways to restore the pride of the farmer, not be compassionate on him.

Bimal Prasad Pandia

Email: bimalpandia@gmail.com

Cell: +91-9438488563 / 9937888566

Friday, May 8, 2009

Supreme Court's Heat on Government's Cool

As Supreme Court finds government cool to its ‘recommendations’, a rigorous ‘direction’ follows to make water available to people. But the Court's over reliance on science mars what could have otherwise been termed as historic judgement.

On Feb 19 this year, the Apex Court had ‘recommended’ immediate constitution of a committee to look for scientific solution to water scarcity. On April 26, it ‘ordered’ the government to do that and came out clear targets and time-frames while deciding a different case.

Apex court gets louder and tougher as water crisis management fails to its expectations

The ‘recommendation’ had come while a two judge division Bench was deciding on a writ petition filed by Government of Orissa that sought Court’s directive to the Central Government to constitute a ‘Water Dispute Tribunal’ to try disputes between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh over Vansadhara River water. The Court allowed the petition and ordered the Central Government to constitute a Tribunal ‘within six months’. But in addition to that the Court also held that water scarcity has become so immense that a Tribunal or a Court of Law cannot permanently find a solution to that. In that back drop, Justice Markandeya Katju in a separate concurrent judgment held that the Government is duty-bound to provide water to people. “The right to get water is a part of the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution,” opined Justice Katju. He was scathing as people everywhere in India are facing a lot of hardship for shortage of water. We don’t have problem of water. Its situation like ‘water water everywhere but not a drop to drink’, had said the Court. We have huge glaciers in the north, majestic oceans on the rest of three sides and numerous big and small rivers all across. Even then we are facing acute water shortage. This is a problem that Science can and should solve, thought the Court. “India has a strong heritage of science… The way out therefore for our nation is to once again turn to the scientific path shown by our ancestors - the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Ramanujan and Raman,” advised the Court. The Court said that our scientists have the capacities. “There is no dearth of eminent scientists in the field who can solve this problem, but they have not been organized and brought together and not been requested by the Central and State Governments to do their patriotic and sacred duty to solve this problem, nor given the facilities for this,” opined the Court.

In that context the Supreme Court had ‘suggested’ constitution of a committee to look into ‘scientific solution’ to water problems on a ‘war-footing’. It had also advised the Central and State governments to give the committee all kinds of support, including financial, material and administrative support. On that count the Court had passed a detailed order, on March 26, ‘relating to the problem of water shortage in our country and we had issued notice to the Secretary, Ministry of Science & Technology asking him to file a counter affidavit within four weeks stating what measures have been taken to solve the water problem in the country and for implementing the recommendations’ given by the Court.

On April 26, the Supreme Court found the counter affidavits spineless and directed “the Central government to forthwith constitute a Committee to address the problems referred to in our order dated 26th March, 2009 which shall do scientific research on a war footing for solving the water shortage”. The Court was very categorical and pointed in its intention this time. “The Central Government is directed to form this Committee to address the water shortage problem at the earliest, latest within two months from today. This Committee shall have the Secretary, Union Ministry of Science & Technology as its Chairman. Amongst the members of the Committee will be the Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Management. The other members of the Committee will be scientists specialized in the field of solving water shortage problems nominated by the Chairman of the Committee and they are requested to take help from foreign scientists specialized in this field,” ordered the Court.

In order to ensure that the government does not take this lightly, the Court proposed to monitor the progress of the committee regularly. “This matter will be listed on the second Tuesday possibly of every alternative month. List again on the 11th August, 2009, on which date a progress report will be submitted before us by the Chairman of the Committee," ordered the Court. To make its intent clearer, the Court even asked the Chairman of the Committee ‘to be personally present before us’ on August 11. "Thereafter the case will be listed on the 20th October, 2009 and so on,” said the Court.

It’s all fine… but is the Court totally right in reposing faith only in Science to deal with water crisis?

There is no second opinion on the Court’s observation on water shortage and deprivation faced by large number of people or on its ruling that right to water is enshrined in the Constitution of the country. But there can be a level of discomfort when the judgment became a little more obsessed with use and capacities of ‘science’. “It is science alone which can solve this problem,” opined the Court. Definitely, there will be a lot less concurrence of opinion on this.

The Court observed that science had taken ancient India to great heights. But then it attributes the causes of decay of water resources to neglect of science. “However, we subsequently took to the unscientific path of superstitions and empty rituals, which has led us to disaster,” observed the Court.

We cannot say that this was a very sound observation by the Court. The Court did not mention what it means by ‘rituals’ or ‘superstitions’. But if referring to ‘River’ as mother is termed as ‘superstition’ or doing something in good stead like taking bath in ‘holy’ water, or cremating besides a river is considered as ‘empty rituals’ then a lot of eye-brows are sure to rise. On the contrary, science has deteriorated water quality and quantity to great extent whether by polluting the sources or causing changes in climate which has a direct bearing on water or emptying ground water sources or tempering with natural flows of water. Thus, your lordship, please pardon us as we differ with you with the believe that not ‘empty rituals’ or ‘superstitions’ but artificial use of science and technology for use of water has led to its abuse and the present decay of water sources.

Truly, answer lies in our tradition – But which is more simpler, cost-effective and proven

Science does not possess a magic wound – at least not yet - to heal all ailments related to water shortages within a timeframe as the Court expects. The Court hopes that scientific activities - like (a) converting saline water into fresh water; and (b) Scientific research to find out methods of harnessing and managing monsoon rain water and also to manage the flood waters and also to do research in rain water harvesting, and treatment of waste water so that it may be recycled and available as potable water - if done in a war footing will solve water problems. That is quite true. But for that to succeed, we must first have to put seize on the factors that cause direct degradation of water and of the environment that impacts water.

If India was very rich in science, it was no less rich in harnessing its natural resources – including water. Every village and every town in India had its own tradition of water harvesting and use. Modern science has treated such tradition and knowledge with disdain and we are paying the price of that.

So your honour, why go for complex and costlier science when we have simpler, cost-effective and proven technology - in traditional design, knowledge and practice with us?? We thank you for the urgency that you have instilled. We hope that the government too picks that sentiments and start urgently. But for all’s shake - honuorable lordship – please do not think that ‘only science can solve this problem’. Most certainly we have better options available in our tradition to harness our water sources with respect and reap benefits.
For further information please contact:
Ranjan K Panda
Convener, Water Initiatives Orissa
Bimal Prasad Pandia
Coordinator, Water Initiatives Orissa
Adress for communication:
Water Initiatives Orissa
C/O: MASS, Dhanupali, Sambalpur, 768005, Orissa, India
Phone: +91-663-2540043 / 2540067
Cell: +91-9437050103 (Ranjan), +91-9438488563 (Bimal)
Email: waterinitiativesorissa@gmail.com, massorissa@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Who to Compensate Sir?? Hirakud failed to produce electricity..

Hirakud Fails to Produce Energy

it's a fallout of water allocation to industries. Dear Government, now get ready and compensate us from industries...  

Do you know that Hirakud system produced an average of only 3.25 MW of power on May 5?? This is even less than one percent of its total installed capacity.  

Who is to blame for this?? The highly talked of 'High Level Technical Committee' headed by Professor Jayselan goofed on many things and had suggested - after agreeing that power generation will be hampered by water allocation to industries from the Hirakud reservoir -  that such losses will be compensated by the industries. 

Now that energy production has really touched its nadir, who is to bell the cat? The government minced no time to 'accept' the report of that committee although it failed to deliver according to its ToR. Still who will implement and how to implement whatever have been suggested by the Committee??

Industry shuts as water flow stops in river


Pump house of a steel and power company locked as it sucked water from everywhere inside a river

The 0.25 MTPA capacity Eastern Steel and Power Ltd (ESPL) came to an abrupt closer as Jharsuguda Tahsildar made the final seal at its pump house in the IB river just above the Hirakud reservoir. The Tehsildar followed the instruction of the District Collector, who in turn was under serious pressures from the nearby villagers who were protesting against the ‘manner in which the company was drawing water from the river’.

As water flow almost came to a naught, the ESPL authorities in desperation to continue operation of their unit dug numerous channels inside the river to feed water to the pumping station. This resulted in total drying of the river at other places and badly affected domestic and livelihood necessities. Before this incidence the company was sourcing water from another nearby river Bheden and met with similar opposition.
Now, the company has been forced to shut its installation for want of water. Probably this is the first instance where a relatively new large industry has been forced to close. In a MoU signed in the year 2005, the ESPL was allowed to draw 2.2 Cusecs of water from IB river. While the villagers rejoice shutting down of the pump house, it also points out serious consequences of mindless industrialization around the Hirakud reservoir.
This is one company which was allowed to draw water from IB river just upstream of the Hirakud reservoir. In many sense, it was quite unfortunate for the company that many of its peers in close vicinity are drawing water directly from the Hirakud reservoir and do not have to worry about water problems, leave alone bothering about opposition from villagers. It is not that water level at Hirakud reservoir is very encouraging. It has reached very critical level. Power generation has already been a casualty and reports of large scale crop losses are coming from every parts of the command area. Yet, massive pumps keep guzzling water from the reservoir. There is no one to shut out pump houses of those industries which are deep inside the reservoir.

Some may argue that shutting down an industrial unit results in massive loss to industry. But, no one can be blamed for that but the industries themselves and the government who facilitated such industries with the assurances that water and natural resources are available in plenty.

The SMC is a mere fly compared to many other industries that are no less than hawk. Had such an industry faced similar water scarcity, I don’t believe that a Tahsildar would have found courage to put locks on their pump house doors or the villager’s grievance would have ever been heard. But, similar scarcity is bound to happen in the Hirakud reservoir, sooner than later. We must not ignore that.

For more information, please contact

Ranjan K Panda at +91-9437050103 (cell) and ranjanpanda@gmail.com (email)


Bimal Prasad Pandia at +91-9438488563 (cell) and bimalpandia@gmail.com (email)

or Post to:

Water Initiatives Orissa


Dhanupali, Sambalpur, 768005, Orissa, India

Coordinator, Water Initiative

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

'Your Lordship.. Best sciece to tackle water woes lie at the grassroots'

Apex Court orders constitution of ‘Vansadhara River Dispute Tribunal’

- SC orders formation of a committee to find out scientific remedies to water woes as ‘tribunals like this can only be stop-gap and temporary solution’.

- 'Water Initiatives Orissa' hails the judgements and urges the Court that most suitable science lies at the community level

A long drawn Court battle between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh regarding sharing of Vansadhara river water has ended in a historic judgement. The Supreme Court of India at last has directed the Central Government to constitute a river dispute tribunal to look into disputes between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh regarding Vanshadhara river water sharing. But going beyond the judgment the two judge bench comprising Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice Altamas Kabir has directed the government to constitute a highly level committee to look for scientific remedies to water woes. Justice Katju in a separate concurring judgment equated the situation in India with that of the popular rhyme ‘Water, Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink’. “Despite having immense reservoirs of water in the form of the Himalayas in the North and the Arabian sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal in the West, South and East of India, there are water shortages everywhere,” observed the judge. Scarcity of water is getting out of hand. “In many cities people get water for half an hour in a day, and sometimes not even that, in large parts of rural areas there is shortage of water for irrigation and drinking purpose. Rivers in India are drying up, ground water is being rapidly depleted, and canals are polluted,” he further added.

‘Don’t Delay’… Court asks the government to find answers fast
Formulation of laws, courts or dispute tribunals ‘cannot resolve the water shortage problem permanently’. We need technology to deal with that. “It is indeed sad that a country like India which solved the problem of town planning 6000 years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization and which discovered the decimal system in Mathematics and Plastic Surgery in Medicine in ancient times, and is largely managing Silicon Valley in U.S.A. today has been unable to solve the problem of water shortage till now,” rued Justice Katju. Mentioning that “Right to get water is a part of right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution,” Justice Katju further said that government cannot escape from that responsibility.

He then recommended the government to “immediately constitute a body of eminent scientists in the field who should be requested to do scientific research in this area on a war footing to find out scientific ways and means of solving the water shortage problem in the country.” He asked the government to give ‘all the financial, technical and administrative help by the Central and State Governments’.

Sounding tough the Court advised such committee to act on a war-footing. “We will consistently monitor the progress and examine this in July”, cautioned Justice Katju.

Orissa relieved as Supreme Court orders formation of dispute tribunal
This extraordinary pronouncement by Justice Katju was part of a judgment delivered in a Writ Petition filed by Government of Orissa seeking constitution of a River Dispute Tribunal with regard to disputes between Orissa and Andrapradesh over Vansadhara river water sharing. The Court ordered formation of such tribunal within six months. The Court ordered Andhra Pradesh to maintain ‘staus quo’ till the matter is taken up by the Tribunal.

While order to constitute Tribunal is good news for Orissa, as Justice Katju has pointed out, forums like these (Tribunals) are only stop-gap in nature. We need to treat water honestly and respectfully. Water is not a tradable commodity. Coming back to an earlier citation referred by Justice Katju,
"Water is a gift of nature. Human handcannot be permitted to convert this bounty into acurse, an oppression. The primary use to whichwater is put being drinking, it would be mockingnature to force the people who live on the bank of ariver to remain thirsty"

‘Your Lordship… Best science exists at the community level’
‘Water Initiatives Orissa’ whole heartedly welcomes the decision of the Honorable Supreme Court. Laws, tribunals are no solution to the water scarcity problems. So we need an ecological sound scientific solution to that. We firmly believe that tackling water woes does not necessarily require a rocket science. Answers are available in plenty among community members. Rich tradition of water harvesting and deep wisdom in use of water is existence in India since ages. We just only need to believe them and revert to such practices. ‘Your Lordship… Local knowledge is the biggest and the most suitable science that we possess to counter water woes. Let’s find our ways through that’, Water Initiatives Orissa (WIO) prays before the honourable Court.

For further information, please contact:

Ranjan K Panda
Convener, Water Initiatives Orissa

Bimal Prasad Pandia
Coordinator, Water Initiatives Orissa
C/O: Manav Adhikar Seva Samiti (MASS)
Dhanupali, Sambalpur 768 004
Orissa, INDIA
Email: waterinitiativesorissa@gmail.com
Phone: +91-663-2520962 / 2404974
Mobile : +91-94370-50103(Ranjan Panda), +91-99378-88466(Bimal Pandia)
For details of the SC judgement, please visit: www.climatechangecrusaders.blogspot.com

Apex Court Orders Centre to Form Vansadhara Water Dispute Tribunal

WIO Advocacy Update V

Form Tribunal to Look into Orissa-Andhra River Dispute, orders the Apex Court

- It also orders formation of an expert committee to look into scientific solution to water woes

Supreme Court orders Centre to form ‘Vansadhara River Dispute Tribunal’ and orders scientific solution to water woes.

- Sweeping orders came on a Writ Petition filed by Orissa since 2006 regarding Vansadhara water dispute.

Orissa is no water rich
The Supreme Court of India’s direction to form an expert committee to resolve water crisis is a snub to those who believe that Orissa is a water surplus state. Moved by the plight of exhausted housewives waiting in serpentine queues for hours to fill their water pitchers, the apex court on Tuesday asked the government to form a panel of scientists to suggest ways to tackle the malady of water woes. This order came on a long-pending dispute between the central government and Orissa on river water sharing.
While pronouncing judgment on a Writ Petition filed by the Government of Orissa against the Government of India regarding dispute arising out of Vansadhara river water sharing between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, the Court order that these kind of cases depict grave water scenario in India. This order pronounced by the Apex Court on February 6, 2009 is unique and landmark in many counts. On one hand it termed the present dispute between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh – pending since year 2006 - as a ‘water dispute’ within the meaning of Section 2(c) (i) of the 1956 Act, which refers to any dispute between two or more State Governments with regard to the use, distribution or control of the waters of or/in any inter-State river or river valley. The Court directed the Central Government to constitute a water dispute tribunal within six months.

Science has played with water.. Science to find solutions

Going beyond, Honourable Markandeya Katju, in a separate concurring judgment observed that given the complicities and total dependence on water, Courts or laws can do very little to quell disputes arising out of water. “Experience has shown that while Tribunals have played a role in resolving such disputes to a certain extent, but they have not, and cannot resolve the water shortage problem permanently”, observed Honourable Katju. He pointed out that we have no right to play with water. He quoted from earlier judgements,

“Water is a gift of nature. Human hand cannot be permitted to convert this bounty into a curse, an oppression. The primary use to which water is put being drinking, it would be mocking nature to force the people who live on the bank of a river to remain thirsty”

"..........Right to live guaranteed in any civilized society implies the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter. These are basic human rights known to any civilized society. All civil, political, social and cultural rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Convention or under the Constitution of India cannot be exercised without these basic human rights."...........

The apex Court then pronounced the following orders,
- I recommend to the Central Government to immediately constitute a body of eminent scientists in the field who should be requested to do scientific research in this area on a war footing to find out scientific ways and means of solving the water shortage problem in the country.
- This body of scientists should be given all the financial, technical and administrative help by the Central and State Governments for this purpose.
- The Central Government should constitute such a body of scientists immediately and give them all the help… The problem brooks no delay for being addressed not even for a day.

The court suggested formation of scientists' panel headed by the Secretary in the Ministry for Science and Technology, with the Secretary of the Water Resources Ministry being one of its members. Other members of the committee will be picked up by the chairman, it advised.

Clearly, the judgment is a pointer that we can escape from water scarcity and no state or no province is water surplus in any manner.

For details of the judgment please visit our blog at: http://climatechangecrusaders.blogspot.com/

For further information please contact us at:

Ranjan K Panda
Convener, Water Initiatives Orissa (+91-9437050103)

Bimal Prasad Pandia
Coordinator, Water Initiatives Orissa (+91-9438488563)

For details of the SC judgement, please visit: http://www.climatechangecrusaders.blogspot.com/

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Major Reservoirs in major crisis

Drying reservoirs in Orissa are gasping for water

Reservoir status are quite alarming !! The approach to deal that is even more alarming. It is quite true that non-monsoon flow to all the reservoirs have been far less than their normal flows. That is part of a problem. But we must bear it in mind that climate will be more abnormal from hereonwards and we need to be prepared for that.
Now coming to allocation and use of stored water - was the respected Chief Engineer honest in saying that the State Water Policy is being followed in spirit?? Is it required for us to explain to him that supply to industries comes at a lower priority than even hydro-power generation. So, before curtailing water supply for hydro-power generation, has the government first curtailed water supplies to industries feeding on water from the reservoirs?? Isn't it a shame that only 31 MU was produced from Hirakud and Chipilma in March this year when it is expected to produce 1100 MU a year?? In April 200, till the 29th, Hirakud reservior produced only 24.5 MU. On the last day it could have produced another 1 MU at best. Similarly only 27.9 MU was produced from Rengali. We must look at where are we heading. 
I would also like to point it out here that the department of water resources has decided to close canal water supply for irrigation from today inspite of vociferous protest by the Pani Panchayats to continue supplies till May 10. Irrigation supplies were used to be made till May 10 in earlier years. Clearly, when it comes to water policy, there are quite a lot of glaring omissions and violations.