Sandeep Sahu – Odisha Television Ltd. https://odishatv.in OdishaTV - OTV Sun, 07 Jun 2020 00:08:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/otv_small_logo.png Sandeep Sahu – Odisha Television Ltd. https://odishatv.in 32 32 Column: Does An ‘Aerial Survey’ Serve Any Purpose In This Age? https://odishatv.in/scandeep/column-does-an-aerial-survey-serve-any-purpose-in-this-age-452982 https://odishatv.in/scandeep/column-does-an-aerial-survey-serve-any-purpose-in-this-age-452982#comments Fri, 22 May 2020 16:50:12 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=452982

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come and gone after the customary ‘aerial survey’ of the areas in West Bengal and Odisha devastated by Cyclone Amphan. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had done the same yesterday, accompanied the PM on the aerial survey today. The PM, of course, had done the same – making an aerial […]

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Cyclone Amphan Aerial Survey

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come and gone after the customary ‘aerial survey’ of the areas in West Bengal and Odisha devastated by Cyclone Amphan. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had done the same yesterday, accompanied the PM on the aerial survey today.

The PM, of course, had done the same – making an aerial survey of the cyclone affected areas – last year after ‘Fani’ as well. But the one thing that this columnist has never quite understood is: does an aerial survey serve any purpose in this age of satellite imagery, Google maps and what not? What more could the tech-savvy Prime Minister – or the Chief Minister, for that matter – possibly see during an aerial survey that he could not have seen by just looking at high-resolution satellite imagery sitting in his office in New Delhi or Bhubaneswar?

Of course, one can always argue that there is no substitute for ‘first hand experience’. But that spawns another question. What kind of ‘first-hand experience’ can one have from that height during an hour’s helicopter ride covering hundreds of square kilometers of cyclone-ravaged territory? After all, aerial surveys by VVIPs rarely involve getting down on the ground and witnessing the damage ‘first hand’, do they? And this author is the last person to believe that the PM decided on the Rs 500 crore ‘preliminary assistance’ he announced for the state (Rs 1, 000 crores in the case of West Bengal) before leaving on the basis of what he ‘saw’ during the aerial survey. As anyone with even a cursory knowledge of such matters knows, such things are never decided on the spot. The amount of Rs 1, 000 crores for West Bengal Rs 500 crores for Odisha must have been decided even before the PM left Delhi – based on his government’s assessment of the damage.

For that matter, even the ‘review meeting’ with state government officials that followed the aerial survey, in this author’s view, is a pointless exercise. After all, there is no need to physically sit down with state officials when the PM – and the union cabinet secretary – have been regularly holding such ‘review meetings’ on Corona and even on Amphan through video conferencing. Review meetings in person is a sheer waste of time at the best of times and a particularly avoidable exercise in times of Corona. If the state government had to submit a memorandum asking for an initial grant, email would have been a much better – and of course easier – way of doing it than hand delivering a hard copy.

But it seems these are uncomfortable questions that are best not asked. We have come to accept such things as a ritual – like, say, the Republic Day parade – that must be gone through after every natural disaster, without stopping once to wonder if it serves any purpose. After all, an aerial survey costs the national exchequer a tidy sum, doesn’t it? I think it was the late Indira Gandhi, who started this ritual, which all subsequent Prime Ministers – and later Chief Ministers – have followed with great enthusiasm. It may have served a purpose during Indira’s time when satellite and other technology was not so developed. But there is absolutely no justification for such costly – and pointless – exercise in this age and time.

But try telling that to our politicians and you are sure to get a mouthful. Because they know it does serve a purpose – in fact, two. First, it provides a wonderful ‘photo op’ to our leaders, which is the fuel that keeps Indian politicians going. It is just perfect for a tweet or the opening visual of a TV report on the visit.

Second, it is a wonderful tool to deliver a political message. Cut to May last year. PM Modi was on his first visit to Odisha just days after a bitterly fought election during which both he and Chief Minister used the choicest epithets against each other – with Modi even saying “Naveen Babu, Aap Jaa Rahe Ho” during an election rally in the state. For those who had seen the temperature rise steadily between the two sides during the campaign, the bonhomie between Modi and Naveen seen during that trip must have come as a surprise – even a shock. But it set the tone for what has followed in the days and months since then. Naveen has emerged as the most trusted non-NDA ally of the NDA government. Aerial visits also deliver another kind of political message – this time to the people. What better way is there to show concern for those ruined by the cyclone than visuals of an anxious looking Prime Minister – or Chief Minister – peeping through the window at the devastation down below?

If naysayers (like this columnist) have a problem with that, so be it!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

More Write-Ups From Columnist:

Column: Be Indian, Trust Indian: Three Cheers for IMD!!

Column: Living With Corona: The New World Order

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Life during lockdown: The New World Order is living with coronavirus https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-living-with-corona-the-new-world-order-452869 Thu, 21 May 2020 17:21:12 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=452869

By Sandeep Sahu Life during lockdown is debatably the new living order. Officially, the nationwide lockdown is still on and will remain in force for 10 days more. But if you are out on the streets, you don’t quite realise it. Lockdown 4.0 is only a shadow of Lockdown 1.0 imposed on March 24 midnight. […]

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Column: Living With Corona: The New World Order

By Sandeep Sahu

Life during lockdown is debatably the new living order. Officially, the nationwide lockdown is still on and will remain in force for 10 days more. But if you are out on the streets, you don’t quite realise it. Lockdown 4.0 is only a shadow of Lockdown 1.0 imposed on March 24 midnight.

It’s ALMOST business as usual. Empty roads are now well and truly a thing of the past. Though they are not yet choc-a-bloc with vehicles as in the pre-lockdown days, their numbers are increasing with each passing day. With restrictions on intra-state movement of vehicles now all but lifted, the traffic on the road is all set to increase in the days ahead. Traffic lights, which remained suspended for a good six weeks or so, have started functioning again. Barricades on the roads, put up to restrict the movement of vehicles, have started disappearing one by one.

Closed for weeks on end, most shops have started opening again – though malls and multiplexes still remain shut. Business is slowly but surely limping back to normal, though the 7 pm to 7 am ‘curfew’ has ensured that it would be sometime before full normalcy is restored. Instead of a handful of people as seen during the first three phases of lockdown, the streets, shops and markets are now bustling with people once again. Just about the only visible difference is the ubiquitous mask on the faces of most people out on the streets. [It is another matter that the vast majority of people wear it in a way that defeats the very purpose of wearing a mask!]

This is as it should be. Life cannot come to a standstill for months on end just because there is a tiny virus on the rampage looking for vulnerable human bodies to settle in. With most experts resigned to the fact that COVID-19 has ‘come to stay’ and no vaccine in sight in the foreseeable future, life had to begin returning to track at some stage – with adequate precautions and some unavoidable restrictions, of course. Large religious or social gatherings, for example, have to remain banned for some more time. And so do malls, multiplexes and other places where a large number of people congregate. But as the decision to start limited air and rail services even before Lockdown 4.0 is over shows, the Central government is now reconciled to the fact India – and the world at large – has to learn to live with Coronavirus. For example, Sweden, which has stubbornly refused to enforce a nationwide lockdown, has not done too badly when compared to some European nations which have. And an indefinite state of lockdown is particularly untenable in a county like India where the vast majority of people work in the unorganised sector and earn their living on a daily basis. In any case, if two months of lockdown has failed to drive the point home, it is highly unlikely that another fortnight or even a month will achieve the purpose. The Odisha government too appears to have recognised this ground reality when it lifted restrictions on most economic activities and mandated full attendance in its offices after the announcement of Lockdown 5.0.

The latest thinking of the medical fraternity suggests that large scale infection is not such a terrible thing after all! As Dr Jayant Panda, technical spokesperson for the state Health department said today, large scale infection is actually ‘necessary’ to develop herd/community immunity, which would be the only guarantee against the deadly virus in the long run – after the vaccine, that it. Hence, he advised people not to panic at the burgeoning number of cases in the state (which, he said, is likely to touch 10, 000 by June). Since we know precious little about the virus and how to fight it, we have little choice but to trust the wisdom of the experts.

What all of it boils down to is this: we have to learn to live with Corona, just as we have learnt to live with, say, HIV. And God save those who refuse to take the required precautions!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

More Write-Ups From Columnist:

‘Lockdown’ Isn’t Such A Terrible Thing After All!

Column: Why A Nationwide Extension Of ‘Lockdown’ Will Be Disastrous

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Be Indian, Trust Indian: Three Cheers for IMD!! https://odishatv.in/scandeep/be-indian-trust-indian-three-cheers-for-imd-452648 https://odishatv.in/scandeep/be-indian-trust-indian-three-cheers-for-imd-452648#comments Wed, 20 May 2020 16:29:10 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=452648

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has done it again! The ‘desi’ weather forecast agency has proved once again, if any proof was needed at all, that no ‘phoren’ agency comes anywhere close to it when it comes to predicting the course of cyclonic storms – at least in the India seas. Cyclone ‘Amphan’, as we […]

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has done it again! The ‘desi’ weather forecast agency has proved once again, if any proof was needed at all, that no ‘phoren’ agency comes anywhere close to it when it comes to predicting the course of cyclonic storms – at least in the India seas.

Cyclone ‘Amphan’, as we know now, has not just followed the exact path charted out by the IMD as early as Sunday. The ‘desi’ agency was also spot on about the intensity of the storm, the wind speed and the place of landfall. As IMD Director General (DG), Odisha’s very own Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra emphasized, with an unmistakable but justifiable sense of pride, at the presser in New Delhi this afternoon, the ‘Red’ and ‘Black’ lines on the map, denoting the predicted and the actual course of the cyclone respectively, overlapped almost completely!

Around midnight yesterday, the more fancied international weather station Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) of the US Navy spread panic among those tracking the course of the cyclone, not the least of them the Odisha government, as it hurtled along towards the Odisha coast menacingly, by predicting that it would have landfall on the north Odisha coast. Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Pradeep Jena revealed today that he made an anxious phone call at the unearthly hour of 3 AM to Dr Mohapatra, who assured him that the landfall would be at the place it had predicted. Lo and behold! By this morning, the JTWC had come round to the course that IMD had stuck to since the beginning!!

This is not something that this columnist discovered during Amphan. There was an exactly similar kind of situation in the lead up to Cyclone Phailin on October 12, 2013, causing the same kind of confusion and uncertainty among those tracking its course (among them yours truly) that JTWC red herring did late last night. If I remember correctly, the IMD had said on that occasion that the wind speed at the time of landfall would be between 20-220 kmph. JTWC, in sharp contrast, had predicted that the wind speed would be around 300 kmph at the time of landfall! Other international agencies put it between 240-260 kmph. Some of them differed widely with the IMD about the place of the landfall as well. While IMD had stuck to its guns and maintained throughout that it would be Gopalpur on the south Odisha coast, some other weather agencies said it would be somewhere on the Andhra Pradesh coast. In the end, it was IMD which had the last laugh. Not only did the landfall take place at Gopalpur, the wind speed too was measured at 215 kmph – just as the IMD had predicted!

I remember calling up the then Director of the Bhubaneswar Met Centre, the affable Dr Sarat Sahu, anxiously to ask him about the prediction of JTWC and other agencies. Calm and unflustered as ever, he replied; “I don’t know what model they use. So, I can’t really comment on their predictions. But we have full trust in the model we use. And as per that model, the speed would be around 210 kmph.”

Since then, I have always trusted the IMD more than any other agencies while reporting cyclones that followed in subsequent years: ‘Hudhud’, which came exactly a year after Phailin, Titli, Bulbul, Fani and numerous other cyclones of varying intensity that did not have landfall on the Odisha coast. And the IMD has come out trumps each time.

Notwithstanding its stellar record over the years, however, some people – and organisations – have greater faith in ‘phoren’ agencies, which have repeatedly come a cropper when it comes to predicting Indian cyclones (I don’t really know how accurate they are in predicting cyclones and typhoons in their own countries!). This time too, some media houses lent greater credence to the international agencies than IMD and unwittingly spread panic among the people for some time. I have never quite figured out this fascination. It is possible it’s part of the general tendency among most Indians that advanced countries know best. It could also be another case of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’, something we Indians excel in.

But whatever it is, we should inculcate some respect for our very own IMD after the experience of Amphan!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: Why Bringing Back Migrant Workers Was The Right Decision https://odishatv.in/scandeep/why-bringing-back-migrant-workers-was-the-right-decision-450335 Sun, 10 May 2020 17:35:03 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=450335

By Sandeep Sahu The exponential growth of Corona positive cases in the state over the last few days has expectedly raised an outcry against the government decision to bring back lakhs of migrant workers from Odisha stranded in big cities in other states due to the nationwide lockdown that has already lasted more than a […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

The exponential growth of Corona positive cases in the state over the last few days has expectedly raised an outcry against the government decision to bring back lakhs of migrant workers from Odisha stranded in big cities in other states due to the nationwide lockdown that has already lasted more than a month and half. But this columnist is still of the view that allowing them to come back to their home state was the right decision despite the rapid rise in the number of positive cases in our state.

Firstly, given the desperate and precarious conditions these migrant workers were living in at their place of work, there was no way the government could have forced them to stay put and stopped them from sneaking into the state any which way. The spurt in cases in Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore underlines the sheer hopelessness of plugging all the entry points from the West Bengal side. Bereft of livelihood, food, shelter – and, most importantly, hope – in an unfriendly city, lakhs of them can be seen on a daily basis attempting the near impossible by walking hundreds of kilometres back to their homes. If India has failed to stop infiltration of civilians from Bangladesh and of terrorists from Pakistan despite the extraordinary security measures put in place at the borders – and their geopolitical implications – it is highly unrealistic to expect the state police to effectively man all possible entry points into the state from all sides. There is also the sea route that requires round the clock surveillance. And unlike in the two cases cited, these are our own people, not foreigners illegally entering the country. So even if some of them were caught while sneaking in, the police can’t shoot at them.

Against this backdrop, it is certainly better to bring them back in an organized way and put them up on quarantine for the mandated period rather than allow them a free run – something that could have proved disastrous. (It must, however, be said the decision to bring back the first few hundred migrant workers from Surat was an ill-advised move. But to the state government’s credit, it was quick to realize its folly – and the damage potential – and decide that all migrants would return only through train.) If the migrants returned on their own, they would have gone straight to their homes and the infected among them would have endangered the lives of their family members and other villagers. While it is true that the quarantine facilities are not foolproof and the restrictions are being violated with impunity at many of them, this is still a better option than allowing the incoming crowd to mingle freely with others.

The concerns being expressed in various quarters about the number of cases going through the roof after the migrants started coming back (Ganjam, for example, has gone from 0 to 112 in one week flat!) are on expected lines. But the crucial fact often lost sight of by those concerned is that they are all being brought back and put up under regulated conditions. Their arrival may have taken the number of positive cases in our state from a healthy 112 to 372 in less than a week. But forcing them to stay put where they were would have been far worse for two reasons. First, they would have been detected – and treated – much later, multiplying the threat of spreading the disease manifold. Second, while we in Odisha would have patted ourselves on our backs for keeping the numbers small, they would have shown up in the country’s numbers –along with several hundred others in all probability – anyway. This is a national crisis and there is no room for such narrow, parochial considerations in fighting the menace. Apart from the practical considerations, there is a human side to it as well. After all, they are our own people, forced to migrate outside the state because we could not provide them jobs here. If we abandon them in this hour of crisis, would the states where they stayed have looked after them better?

Much of the anger we see among the more fortunate is, in fact, the reaction to a few stray cases of inmates violating the restrictions in place at the quarantine facilities – incidents like over a hundred of them leaving two centres in Ganjam complaining about poor food and an unruly group in Tihidi singing and dancing throwing caution to the winds – and, worse still – shooting a TikTok video and posting it on social media. But these stray cases cannot take away from the fact bringing back the migrants was the right way to go about it.

Rather than crib about the decision to allow them in, the need of the hour is to focus attention on improving the facilities and plugging the loopholes at the quarantine centres: ensuring tighter security so as not to allow inmates to roam freely (or slip into their homes at night, as reported in some places) or requisition food from their homes, stricter enforcement of social distancing and hygiene and extensive tests to identify positive cases.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: The Real Challenge Will Begin After May 3 https://odishatv.in/scandeep/column-the-real-challenge-will-begin-after-may-3-447188 Fri, 24 Apr 2020 09:45:19 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=447188

By Sandeep Sahu So far, so good. We have got a great measure of success in arresting the spread of the deadly virus, ‘flattening the curve’, doubling the ‘doubling rate’, holding back the crucial – and dangerous – third phase of community transmission, setting up exclusive COVID-19 hospitals, significantly augmenting testing facilities and limiting the […]

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Column: The Real Challenge Will Begin After May 3

By Sandeep Sahu

So far, so good. We have got a great measure of success in arresting the spread of the deadly virus, ‘flattening the curve’, doubling the ‘doubling rate’, holding back the crucial – and dangerous – third phase of community transmission, setting up exclusive COVID-19 hospitals, significantly augmenting testing facilities and limiting the number of deaths even as western nations are fighting a losing battle with the Coronavirus. The very fact that we have managed to enforce a nationwide lockdown, which has already lasted a month and still has over a week to go, without any major disruption of the law and order situation is no mean achievement either. No wonder the world is complimenting us for the way we have fought the extremely difficult battle with the virus.

But if the developments over the last few days are anything to go by, we could lose control and the situation could go out of hand in next to no time. The real challenge, as this columnist sees it now, will begin after May 3 (assuming that there is no further extension of the lockdown period) when crores of desperate migrant workers stranded in inhospitable conditions all over the country start trooping back to their homes. Estimates of such workers vary between 20 to 30 crores, large enough to outnumber the total population of many countries. The governments, both at the Centre and in the states, have failed to pin thousands of them down at the place they were employed – the use of the past tense is deliberate because many of them have lost their jobs – and prevent them from attempting the audacious, risky and life-threatening by walking, cycling and boating hundreds of kilometers back to their homes even when the stifling restrictions of the ‘lockdown’ are in force. In this backdrop, one shudders to think about how they will handle this huge crowd.

Also ReadColumn: ‘Lockdown’ Isn’t Such A Terrible Thing After All!

Order and discipline have never been a virtue in India, even more so among the ‘great unwashed masses’, who are waiting anxiously for May 4. We have already seen glimpses of our penchant for defying the law and rules during the lockdown period itself, first in Delhi and then in Mumbai. That is why there is legitimate apprehension in the minds of many, including this author, that the post-lockdown period could soon degenerate into a free for all with the sheer number of people trying to get back among their near and dear ones at the same time.

Let us focus on Odisha, one of the states with a large outgo of migrant workers, to size up the enormity of the challenge and the measures in place to meet it. The state government has done well to prepare for this huge challenge by entrusting the primary responsibility of handling this large crowd to the Sarpanches, who have already been given ‘Collector’s powers’ (whatever that means!). But one wonders whether it is not asking for too much from 6, 000 odd sarpanches to handle the expected post-lockdown deluge when the government, with all the power and a nearly 6 lakh-strong workforce at its command, could not handle the trickle efficiently despite the restrictions in place during the lockdown period? The sudden spurt in positive cases in Balasore, Bhadrak, and Jajpur over the last few days is just an early indicator of the difficulty of the task of pugging all the loopholes. And the task, as we all know, is going to be a thousand times bigger and more challenging after May 3.

While it is true that the entire government workforce would work overtime to minimize the damage, the sheer size of the problem does not inspire much confidence that it can be handled effectively. The state government has already revised the number of expected arrivals upwards from just 1.5 lakh a few days ago to 5 lakh. The actual number, if those working for migrant labourers are to be believed, could be much more than that. The task is made all the more difficult by the fact that the vast majority of the incoming people are so desperate to reach home that they can hardly be expected to be good, responsible, law-abiding citizens and submit themselves to a 14-day quarantine immediately on arrival.  One can only bank on their good sense and hope that the massive ‘homecoming’ goes off without spoiling all the good work that the state government has done so far.

In the unlikely event of a further extension of the lockdown period, the problem could get even more intractable than it already is. For one thing, it would only delay the inevitable, not prevent it altogether. For another, it has the potential to create an enormous countrywide law and order problem which could derail the enforcement measures in place.

Also ReadColumn: Human Rights In Corona-induced ‘Suspended Animation’!

It’s a real Catch-22 position! All we can do at the moment is to bank on the efficiency of the government machinery and the good sense of the inbound crowd to see us through this extremely difficult period.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: ‘Access’ vs. ‘Independence’: A Scribe’s Perennial Dilemma https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-access-vs-independence-a-scribes-perennial-dilemma-446348 Sun, 19 Apr 2020 10:57:54 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=446348

By Sandeep Sahu Access to the ‘powers that be’ is the staple that no journalist can do without. In fact, the pecking order of a hack is often determined by the number of ‘contacts’ and ‘sources’ s/he has in high places. But ‘access’, as any journalist with reporting experience would tell you, don’t come gratis. […]

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Column: ‘Access’ vs. ‘Independence’: A Scribe’s Perennial Dilemma

By Sandeep Sahu

Access to the ‘powers that be’ is the staple that no journalist can do without. In fact, the pecking order of a hack is often determined by the number of ‘contacts’ and ‘sources’ s/he has in high places. But ‘access’, as any journalist with reporting experience would tell you, don’t come gratis. It comes with a definite price tag and an unspoken understanding of a ‘quid pro quo’.

A top politician or an officer will share ‘privileged’ information that is not already in the public domain or not meant to be shared with anyone only with the assumption that you will do the ‘story’ as s/he wants it to be done. If you allow the independent journalist in you to take over after obtaining the ‘privileged’ information, that would be the end of your ‘access’ to the ‘source’. Far from sharing any ‘privileged’ information with you, the politician/bureaucrat would simply refuse to take your calls or respond to your texts/emails. If you have grown particularly close to the person, s/he may even call you and make his/her displeasure known to you in no uncertain terms. If you are too critical in your story, chances are you may be barred ‘access’ to all alternative ‘sources’ open to you as a journalist as well. An informal, unofficial, word of mouth instruction will go down the order not to ‘entertain’ you in future. If you keep doing it to all your ‘sources’, you would soon burn all your bridges with the establishments. You would be deprived of not just ‘exclusive’ information, but even routine info that is open to others!

Also Read: Column: Why A Nationwide Extension Of ‘Lockdown’ Will Be Disastrous

‘Access’, however, is not limited only to the sharing of privileged information. It also includes granting an interview or giving a ‘quote’ or a ‘byte’. If you do their bidding, they will grant all of this. They may even accept your invitation and turn at your family functions – your son’s or daughter’s 21st-day ceremony, birthday or marriage – to give you the bragging rights before friends and family. Why they would even invite you to similar occasions in their own families! The moment you stray out of line, you risk losing your ‘ego trips’ along with your access to information.

Let’s face it. No government, no politician and no officer wants to have anything to do with a truly ‘independent’ journalist. They would only ‘entertain’ sycophants or, at the very least, people who don’t dare spoil the ‘official’ narrative. They are all people with extremely thin skins. None of them would countenance criticism, even a mild one, or questions being asked of them. They would grant access – or give an interview – to you only if you do their bidding and do your story in the manner desired by them. Anything less and you will ‘fall from grace’ in next to no time!

This time-honoured arrangement, with its own set of ground rules, puts the fiercely independent-minded journalist in a real dilemma. It’s a real Catch-22 situation. Do their bidding to protect your ‘access’ and you can’t see yourself in the mirror the next morning without feeling ashamed about it or without your conscience pricking you. Refuse to do their bidding and risk losing your ‘access’, which is the fuel that drives every reporter. And along with it, your bragging rights!

Every conscientious journalist finds a way of dealing with this dilemma. Some of them decide to ‘compromise’ just a bit and ‘balance’ their story in a bid to keep the powers that be happy, without actually selling their soul. Others choose to ‘compromise’ fully with their journalistic conscience and independence and go the whole hog to keep their privileged access going and stay one step ahead of their peers. There are still others who can do neither and find themselves scouring the margins of the profession.

Read: Column: ‘Lockdown’ Isn’t Such A Terrible Thing After All!

I, for one, have always valued ‘independence’ over ‘access’ and suffered immensely for it as a reporter. Once you incur the wrath of the government – especially a government as popular and as powerful as the Naveen Patnaik government – the entire official machinery works overtime to bar all possible avenues of ‘access’ to information. It has made things extremely difficult to operate.

But then, ‘independence’, like ‘access’, comes with a price tag!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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bureaucrat, Column, columnist sandeep sahu, independent journalist, journalist, odisha, Odisha government, Politician, Sandeep Sahu, scribe 2020-04-19 16:27:54 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/journalist.jpg
Column: Dear Health Dept, Who’s Creating Confusion? https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-dear-health-dept-whos-creating-confusion-444712 Thu, 09 Apr 2020 11:33:46 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=444712

By Sandeep Sahu “During the time of an extraordinary situation like this, all are requested (to) play a positive role and not create any confusion. We can’t afford to be distracted at this hour of crisis. Help us to fight COVID-19. Everyone must play his role.” This was the text of a tweet by the […]

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Column: Dear Health Dept, Who’s Creating Confusion?

By Sandeep Sahu

“During the time of an extraordinary situation like this, all are requested (to) play a positive role and not create any confusion. We can’t afford to be distracted at this hour of crisis. Help us to fight COVID-19. Everyone must play his role.”

This was the text of a tweet by the Health & Family Welfare department of the Odisha government at 5.20 pm on Wednesday. What it said, in effect, was: “Just keep your mouth shut. Take what you are fed as gospel truth, without raising any questions about any anomaly, contradiction or confusion that maybe there in what we feed you with because it’s ‘an extraordinary situation’!

In the absence of any other credible source of information, the people of the state, including the media, have little choice but to depend on the government for authentic information because it is indeed ‘an extraordinary situation’. But does that mean the people – and especially the media – will swallow everything that is fed to them unthinkingly even if the discrepancies and contradictions are too glaring to be missed?

And there have been far too many such discrepancies and contradictions over the last week and more to keep the mouth shut as the government desires. Asking questions, after all, is the essence of democracy. And last I checked, India was still a democracy notwithstanding the fact that we are passing through ‘extraordinary’ times. In fact, the confusion, if any, was created by the government and its various agencies dealing with the situation and not by anyone else!

Read: Column: Why A Nationwide Extension Of ‘Lockdown’ Will Be Disastrous

The confusion actually started the day the government decided to reverse its own principle of keeping the identity of those who test positive for the nCorona virus and revealed the name and residential details of Pradipta Dalabehara, the man from Suryanagar area in Bhubaneswar, who was the fifth person in the state to have tested positive. Announcing the decision, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Premchand Choudhury attributed the reversal of the policy of ‘no names’ to the fact that Dalabehara had no recent history of travel outside the state, raising fears that this could mark the beginning of the dangerous third stage in the spread of the virus called ‘community transmission’. The whole of Suryanagar was sealed and intensive containment measures initiated in the area immediately after the BMC chief’s announcement. But less than 48 hours later, Choudhury revealed that while Dalabehera himself had no recent history of travel outside the state, one of his family members did! As if this was not enough to confuse the people, Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy told the media the same day that no evidence of community transmission had emerged ‘so far’ in the state! The two grounds on which the identity of Dalabehera was revealed and Suryanagar sealed thus fell flat on their faces!

So, who created the confusion?

The confusion deepened further the next day when the BMC announced sealing of Bomikhal area after three persons were identified as positive for Corona. As in the case of the Suryanagar victim, we were told that these three too did not have any recent history of travel outside the state. Since no sealing had been undertaken in the areas inhabited by the first four positive cases – presumably because they had known history of travel outside the state and ‘contact tracing’ was easy in their cases (we were even given the exact numbers of people these four had come in contact with since their return!) – the people assumed that sealing became necessary because it was a case of community transmission. The next day, we were told that while the three positive cases, who are brothers, had not gone outside the state, their father had recently returned from Bhopal and carried the virus from there. So why was the whole of Bomikhal sealed and the people put to untold miseries when the basic premise on which it was done was not relevant anymore? Why did the BMC jump the gun, for the second time in two days? In the Suryanagar case, revealing the name had apparently became necessary in ‘larger public interest’? How come ‘larger public interest’ suddenly became irrelevant in the Bomikhal case the very next day even though the case details were no different?

So, who created the confusion?

The day after the revelation about the Bhopal returnee and his three sons, we were told as many as 15 new positive cases had emerged in Bomikhal, most of them relatives of the former’s family or those who had come in contact with them. The number of positive cases in Bomikhal thus leap-frogged to 19 in just two days! And this was as per the number given by the government’s own agency, BMC, and not anyone else. But the figure strangely came down to 18 the next day without any explanations offered.

Then on Wednesday, we were told Satynagar had been sealed after four positive cases were identified there. If this was the case, the total number of positive cases in the state, which stood at 42 the previous day, should have increased by four, shouldn’t it? But the number still remained at 42! When TV channels started raising questions about the all too visible discrepancy, the BMC came out with a clarification of sorts and said three of the four cases in Satyanagar were linked to the Bomikhal cases. There was, however, no word whatsoever on the fourth person. In an incredible exercise of figure jugglery, the number of cases in Bomikhal came down from 18 to 14! The four were assigned to Satyanagar though only three of them, we were told, were linked to Bomikhal.

As if all this was not good enough to confuse the people, BMC spread panic in the evening by revealing that one of the four positive cases in Satyanagar used to frequent an OMFED booth near the Big Bazar square and asking all people who may have visited the booth and come in contact with ‘him’ should remain in 14-day home quarantine. But how do the people know who was ‘he’ since no names were revealed in any case other than that of Dalabehera (who is fully entitled to file a defamation suit against the government for having invaded his privacy!). Did the BMC want every person who had gone to the booth to go on quarantine? If so, what was the cut-off date? Since no such dates were given, did the BMC want everyone who has ever gone to this particular booth, even if it was 10 years back, to go on quarantine? What prevented the BMC from revealing the identity of the person? How were the people to know who among the four new cases was the person in question?

So, who is creating confusion?

On Tuesday, we were told the IB office in Unit V had been sealed and all employees put on quarantine after it was found that one of them had come in contact with one of the eight persons who had tested positive in Suryanagar. But the next day, the map released by the BMC to show the spread of the virus in Bhubaneswar showed one positive case in Unit V. Was it the same person who had apparently ‘come in contact’ with one of the Suryanagar victims or someone else? And when was this person reported positive? No answers are forthcoming.

Also Read: Column: ‘Lockdown’ Isn’t Such A Terrible Thing After All!

And this morning, we were told of the two new positive cases identified, one had been admitted to ‘a private hospital’, but there was no word on which hospital it was. Why was name of the private hospital being held back when a spectacle was made of Kar Clinic and the whole hospital vacated and sanitized after the discovery that one of the positive cases had been admitted there?

So, who exactly is creating, spreading and sustaining confusion, if not the government?

The problem with this dispensation, to use a popular saying, is that the ‘left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. The Health department says one thing, BMC another and the Chief Spokesperson for Corona something else. It is the lack of coordination between the various arms of the government which is creating and perpetuating the confusion, not the people or the media. The media is just asking some relevant questions that need to be answered and the confusion, if any, dispelled. But to shut down the people’s mouth or – as it happened with a journalist friend, getting blocked by the Health department on Twitter – for asking the relevant questions is not going to clear the confusion.

It is time the government realized this and stopped creating confusion. And when there is a confusion, it has to clear the mist and put the ‘correct’ facts in the public domain.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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columnist sandeep sahu, Coronavirus Outbreak Odisha, Coronavirus pandemic, covid19 cases in Odisha, Odisha health department, Sandeep Sahu 2020-04-09 20:25:50 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Coronavirus-1-1-3.jpg
Column: ‘Lockdown’ Isn’t Such A Terrible Thing After All! https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-lockdown-isnt-such-a-terrible-thing-after-all-444383 Tue, 07 Apr 2020 11:43:11 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=444383

By Sandeep Sahu Come to think of it! The 21-day countrywide ‘lockdown’ in force since March 23 hasn’t been such a terrible thing after all! Please have patience as I explain just how!! Cut back to the first week of May, 2019 and imagine the state we, the people who had the misfortune of living […]

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Column: ‘Lockdown’ Isn’t Such A Terrible Thing After All!

By Sandeep Sahu

Come to think of it! The 21-day countrywide ‘lockdown’ in force since March 23 hasn’t been such a terrible thing after all! Please have patience as I explain just how!!

Cut back to the first week of May, 2019 and imagine the state we, the people who had the misfortune of living on territory that bore the brunt of Cyclone ‘Fani’ that had just left a trail of devastation, were in. There was no power for close to a week even in large parts of the Smart City of Bhubaneswar, longer in certain areas. In the most affected villages of Puri district, it took several weeks for power to be restored. The city slickers were getting impatient with the absence of power, water, telephone, internet, even provisions. Fly by night generator operators were doing roaring business, charging as much as Rs. 2, 000 for an hour, 10 times the rate in normal times, to lift water to the overhead tanks. Those who could afford it even booked rooms in premium hotels of the city to beat the May heat with AC! Not far from the city, villagers in Puri, their roofs blown away by ‘Fani’, were roasting in their makeshift polythene shanties. The less fortunate stared at the scorching mid-day sun with naked eyes.

With most trees gone, cities, towns and villages wore a ghastly look. It was painful to see decades old fruit-bearing, shadow-giving trees lying sprawled, their mammoth roots turned upwards, blocking the nearby road. There was nowhere for a pedestrian to seek temporary solace under shade to escape the heat. The loss of livelihood, especially in the villages of Puri, was immense. A year down the line, some of them are yet to recover from the destruction they suffered at the hands of the cyclone.

Read: Column: To Reveal Or Not To Reveal!

Now, cut to the first week of April, 2020. And we don’t even have to imagine the state we are in because we are all living right through it. Power has not gone off at all. Nor has water supply been disrupted even for a day. There is no dearth of essential supplies in the market though procurement is a bit of a hassle. And except for some non-essential items like cigarettes, gutkha, liquor and other excise stuff, the prices of commodities haven’t gone through the roof either. Moreover, municipal or local authorities are committed to providing essential items at the doorsteps with a mere call. Phones and internet are working just fine. Petrol bunks are open (except for the two-day shutdown in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Bhadrak). Livelihoods have, of course, been affected as they invariably do in times of disasters, but governments, civil society organisations have come forward to provide them subsistence to live through these difficult times. The white-collar workers, however, are enjoying the rare privilege of enjoying a long paid leave!

That is not all. With no vehicular or industrial pollution, we are literally ‘breathing easy’ after ages. [The other day, I saw on TV visuals of the magnificent Himalayas captured from a place as far off as Jalandhar!] Families are rediscovering the pleasures of spending quality time together, eating together, talking together, watching Ramayan and Mahabharat together and so on. While vacations and visits to parks and malls are not possible, there is plenty to keep oneself gainfully engaged. Cobwebs are being cleared; shelves, cupboards and attics are receiving some long-delayed attention and getting a facelift; finishing touches are being given to sundry household and professional jobs for which one rarely found time before Corona. There has, of course, been a flip side to it in the sense that incidents of domestic violence have reportedly gone up since the lockdown kicked in. But in my view, it must be happening in families where domestic violence was a reality anyway. The nostalgically inclined are going down memory lane and fishing out old books, pictures and songs as part of the effort to relive the past. The creatively inclined are taking out their paints and brushes, their musical instruments and writing pads and so on.

All that is asked of us is to stay indoors, not venture out and when we have no option but to go out, maintain ‘social distancing’ at all times and wash our hands frequently. Is that such a big ask?

Also Read: Column: Odisha Needs More Like Him

So, what exactly are we cribbing about? Why can’t we just stay at home and insist on playing footsie with the police, who are trying to enforce the ‘lockdown’ strictly and get thrashed, asked to do sit ups and get humiliated in public? Staying indoors anyway is something that your family members always wanted you to do, isn’t it? Maintaining ‘social distancing’? We could lose our lives – and endanger the lives of others, including oour family members – if we don’t. Hand washing? Is that such a terrible thing to do?

So, let’s stop complaining and start doing what everyone from World Health Organisation (WHO) to Govt. of India to our very own Govt. of Odisha and the doctors’ fraternity are requesting us to do multiple times a day. And look for the best way to use this forced confinement to do things we never got the time for.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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columnist sandeep sahu, Coronavirus Lockdown Impact, COVID19, Cyclone Fani, Odisha government, Sandeep Sahu, World Health Organisation (WHO) 2020-04-07 17:13:11 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Indian-Family-Watching-Rama.jpg
Column: To Reveal Or Not To Reveal! https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-to-reveal-or-not-to-reveal-443955 Sat, 04 Apr 2020 18:37:41 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=443955

By Sandeep Sahu Poor Pradipta Dalabehera! He must be feeling cheated at earning the ‘dubious distinction’ of being the only person in the state named as having tested positive for the deadly n-Corona virus. While revealing not just his name but other crucial details like his plot number and the area he lived in on […]

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Column: To Reveal Or Not To Reveal!

By Sandeep Sahu

Poor Pradipta Dalabehera! He must be feeling cheated at earning the ‘dubious distinction’ of being the only person in the state named as having tested positive for the deadly n-Corona virus. While revealing not just his name but other crucial details like his plot number and the area he lived in on Thursday, Bhubaneswar Municipal Commissioner (BMC) Commissioner Premchand Choudhury said the decision to name him was taken after weighing respect for privacy of an individual against the ‘larger public interest’, which he said necessitated the revelation. An exception to the general principle of keeping the victim’s identity under wraps was made in Dalabehera’s case, he explained, because he had ‘no history of travel to foreign countries or even to other states in the country in the recent past’. The revelation was followed almost immediately by the ‘sealing’ of the whole Suryanagar area due to fears that this could have marked the beginning of the dangerous ‘community transmission’ phase!

Just 48 hours later, the same Mr Choudhury told the media, without so much as batting an eyelid, that though Dalabehera himself did not have any history of travel outside the state, a member of his family, who has also tested positive for the virus, did travel to Kolkata recently! Of course, it would be wrong to blame the BMC Commissioner for the faux pas because he is too junior in the hierarchy to have taken the call entirely on himself. The decision to make an exception and rescind its own well laid out policy to make an exception in such a sensitive case must have been taken at the highest quarters by people who are supposedly leading the ‘War on Corona’ on behalf of the state government. But at the same time, can we blame Dalabehera if he is feeling aggrieved in his hospital at being made a public spectacle of and dreading the prospect of returning to his place even after he is fully cured (May God save him!). Is he not well within his rights to sue the authorities for violating his ‘right o privacy’?

Irrespective of who took the call, however, the whole sorry episode has thrown up several questions that must be answered by the authorities. Why did the BMC – and by implication the state government – jump the gun and emphatically announced that Dalabehera had no recent history of travel outside the state and then followed it up by spreading panic in the whole area by sealing off Suryanagar from all sides? Why could it not wait a little longer to find out if anyone else in his family may have gone outside in the recent past? Now that it has been confirmed that it was no different from any of the previous cases detected and was not a case of community transmission as initially suspected, will it spare the people living in Suryanagar the hardships by lifting the sealing right away and apologizing to Dalabehera for having breached his privacy?

I remember having questioned the logic behind the decision to name Dalabehera in a social media post barely minutes after it was announced by Mr Choudhury on TV on Thursday. There was a flurry of comments from friends, who jumped to the government’s defence and ‘explained’ why it was necessary. Almost all of them cited the same reason Mr Choudhury himself had cited to justify the decision: the fact that Dalabehera’s case was unlike the other cases in that he did not travel out, making ‘contact tracing’ difficult in his case. But somehow, I was not convinced and kept protesting, though feebly, why someone with a history of recent travel outside is less dangerous. The answers that I got did nothing to clear my confusion.

But I realized my query was not misplaced when the state government announced a complete 48-hour shutdown in the entire Bhubaneswar city, besides Bhadrak and Cuttack, around noon on Friday. It was done, we were told after Corona positive cases were detected at all these places. “Why is the whole bustling city of Cuttack being brought to a complete shutdown after detection of just one case – and that too of a person who was found to have attended the Tableeghi Jamaat religious gathering in Delhi’s Nizamuddin? What happened to the logic of outside travel that was used by the government and many others to explain away the withholding the identity of other victims?” I wondered.

Read: Column: Odisha Needs More Like Him

I felt further vindicated when the authorities announced sealing of the whole Bomikhal area in the Capital city late on Friday night after three positive cases were detected there. If Suryanagar was sealed and Dalabehera’s name made public, why were the identities of the three from Bomikhal who had tested positive being kept away from the public? The BMC Commissioner revealed late on Saturday evening that the father of the three persons, who are brothers, had travelled to Bhopal. In that case, why were the people of Bomikhal put to untold miseries by sealing off the whole area? Where, I wondered, was the need to seal the area when the whole city was under an unprecedented 48-hour shutdown anyway?

In fact, the whole argument that ‘contact racing’ is child’s play in case of those with recent history of travel outside the state was hit for a six by the Jajpur Collector, who revealed on Saturday that the person identified as a Corona positive case in Brahmabarada, a Maulvi, was not at all cooperating by revealing the identities of all those he had come in contact with since returning from the Markaz on March 18? He stopped just short of accusing the Maulvi of lying, but made it clear that it was difficult to believe that the Maulvi had come in contact with just 13 people in the meanwhile! This was what I apprehended from the very beginning. While contact tracing, do the authorities have any means of finding out the total number of people someone has come in contact with except to take his word at face value? What if s/he, like the Maulvi in Jajpur, lies and decides to take the authorities on a wild goose chase? The whole logic used to justify the withholding of names of those with recent history of travel outside Odisha thus fall flat on its face!

I am no expert on Corona or privacy laws. But the little that I have read on how the rest of the world is tackling the Corona menace suggests there are no universally accepted norms about the desirability of revealing identities and each country – and even each state – has been left free to take a call that it deems fit. The Odisha government too used precisely this leverage to reveal the name in one case while hiding it in the case of all others. Even in a country with very strong privacy laws like US, healthcare authorities have been given the freedom to decide on it after weighing individual privacy and greater public interest. But in a country like India where there is a general reluctance to come out into the open and offer themselves to be tested, quarantined and treated by those who have reasons to suspect they may be carrying the virus – and not be honest about it even when identified, as in the Maulvi’s case in Jajpur – the greater public good has to override the right to privacy of an individual because failure to do so could prove disastrous for the country as a whole. If the government, in its wisdom, decides to go by the Supreme Court ruling that right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution, it should be applied uniformly in all cases without any exceptions whatsoever. Pick and choose will simply not do.

Also Read: Column: Fight Against COVID-19 Caught Between Complacency And Panic

On balance, therefore, I am of the firm view that there is a strong case for revealing the names of ALL those who test positive, irrespective of their recent travel history, to save others who might have come in contact with such a person unknowingly.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column, Coronavirus in Odisha, Coronavirus Positive case in Odisha, COVID-19, COVID-19 outbreak, Guest writer, revealing identity of Coronavirus patient, Sandeep Sahu, Surya Nagar COVID19 patient 2020-04-05 00:28:41 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Identity-of-Odisha-Covid-Pa.jpg
Column: The Questions We Odias Should Be Asking Ourselves https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-utkala-dibasa-the-questions-we-odias-should-be-asking-ourselves-443490 Thu, 02 Apr 2020 03:04:59 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=443490

By Sandeep Sahu [My sincere apologies at the very outset. The time for this particular piece was yesterday, which was the 84th Utkala Dibasa (the day Odisha was born as India’s first linguistic state back in 1936). But the issues it discusses, in my view, will remain relevant not just a day after D Day, […]

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Column: The Questions We Odias Should Be Asking Ourselves- Utkala Dibasa

By Sandeep Sahu

[My sincere apologies at the very outset. The time for this particular piece was yesterday, which was the 84th Utkala Dibasa (the day Odisha was born as India’s first linguistic state back in 1936). But the issues it discusses, in my view, will remain relevant not just a day after D Day, but even when the next edition of Utkala Dibasa comes along. It is with this confidence that I seek your indulgence for this rather belated article.]

Utkala Dibasa is – or should be – a time for retrospection for every Odia, who takes pride in his state, its rich cultural heritage, its abundant natural resources and rues the fact that a good 84 years after emerging as India’s first linguistic state, Odisha continues to be counted among the least developed states of the country, at the very bottom of the development pyramid. Introspection, as we all know, involves asking questions to self and trying to find answers to each one of them. The following are the questions that I thought about and wrote out, in Odia, in the form of a long questionnaire on Facebook on Utkala Dibasa morning. I know that the answers would be different for different people and hence I am not offering any answers. But the questions – none of them asked for the first time here, I must admit – are the ones that I think must be of concern to all thinking Odias. So, here they go:

  • Why exactly do we take pride in being Odia? Os it because of our rich history and heritage, our glorious ancient past or is there something in our present day status too to take pride in? If there is, what is it?
  • Where are we vis-à-vis other states that were formed on linguistic basis long after us?
  • Why Odisha continues to be counted among the poorest and least developed states in the country despite being blessed with bountiful natural resources? And a related question: who is responsible for it?
  • Why has Odisha failed to emerge as one of the most industrialised states in the country despite its abundant natural resources?

Also Read: Column: Fault-Finding Can Wait For A More Opportune Time

  • Why is Odisha lagging far behind other states in agricultural productivity and crop diversification despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Odisha’s 4.5 crore population are still engaged in – and dependent on – agriculture or allied activities in one form or other? And a corollary: why do our farmers continue to wallow in poverty, misery and utter despondency? [A polite request to friends in the ruling party: For heaven’s sake, don’t give us the crap about Odisha winning the ‘Krishi Karman’ award four times in the last five years! Everyone knows what is the plight of the average Odia farmer.]
  • Why have all our rulers since the days of the Janaki Ballav Patnaik government in the 1980s run after industry and been more than eager to hand over the precious resources of the state on a platter to industrialists from other states, none more than the present dispensation, when Odisha, with its enviable and varied tourist wealth (I don’t have the slightest doubt that no other state comes even close to us when it comes to places and things of tourist attraction for every taste and preference.), has the potential to emerge as the No. 1 tourist destination in the country, edging out even God’s Own Country? Tourism can not only become the biggest revenue earner for the state, but also the largest employer of Odia youth, something that no amount of industrialisation will never achieve because of the very nature of big business.
  • Why do lakhs of Odia youths keep migrating to other states in search of work every year? Why have we failed to give them gainful employment right here?
  • Have we contributed to this sorry state of affairs of the state, its language, culture and tradition in some way? Do we take enough pride in being Odias? Do we speak Odia at home and with our friends outside it? Do we buy/read Odia books, magazines, newspapers and encourage our children to do the same? Do we protest when outsiders make fun of us, our state, its language and culture or just smile sheepishly?
  • Why have some of us become so insecure about our language, culture and tradition? Why is parochialism growing in a state known for its all-assimilating tradition right through history?
  • Do we take pride in our rich cultural and artistic heritage, our magnificent handicrafts and exquisite handloom weaves, our intricate applique and silver filigree work and so on only while talking to outsiders or do we also do our bit to keep these dying artistic and cultural traditions alive and kicking by patronizing these art and crafts and giving them pride of place in our drawing rooms and socio-cultural life? Do we tell our children about our glorious artistic and cultural traditions?
  • Is the ‘political stability’ that many of us take great pride in a boon or a bane? Has it helped Odisha get its rightful place or has it proved to be a stumbling block? Has it taken Odisha forward or backward?

I know there are many Odias who are ashamed or apologetic, not proud, of their Odia identity. “I don’t know Odia because I lived outside all my life and studies in an English/Hindi medium school,” (as if that is enough reason not to know Odia!) they would tell everyone, a tinge of pride unmistakable in their voice! They too should be asking a few questions to themselves. So, here they go:

  • Why are we ashamed of being an Odia? Have we done what we could have to remove the reason(s) for the shame?
  • What have we done to bring pride back in being an Odia?

Also Read: Op-Ed: Musings On Utkal Dibasa

  • If we hate to be called Odias, what would we like to be known as? And a related question: does the linguistic community we feel part of accept us as equal partners?

If most, if not all, Odias ask themselves these questions (and a few more too), I am sure the process of change for the better would have begun even though we may not find the answers readily.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column, India’s first linguistic state, Odia migrant workers, odisha, Sandeep Sahu, Utkala Dibasa 2020-04-02 08:34:59 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Utkala-Dibasa.jpg
Column: Human Rights In Corona-induced ‘Suspended Animation’! https://odishatv.in/scandeep/column-human-rights-in-corona-induced-suspended-animation-442691 Fri, 27 Mar 2020 17:40:21 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=442691

By Sandeep Sahu A youth is asked to do sit-ups – and asked to keep counting as he does so. At another end of the state, two youths and their bikes are caned by lath-wielding cops. Elsewhere, four youths are asked to sit on their hunches, move their hands between their legs, hold the back […]

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COVID-19 Lockdown

By Sandeep Sahu

A youth is asked to do sit-ups – and asked to keep counting as he does so. At another end of the state, two youths and their bikes are caned by lath-wielding cops. Elsewhere, four youths are asked to sit on their hunches, move their hands between their legs, hold the back of their head with them and then keep moving, like frogs (the way school children were punished by teachers in the days before corporal punishment was banned under RTE)! Meat and fish sellers at a weekly haat in Bhubaneswar, permitted by authorities to do business even during the lockdown period, are verbally abused, held by the collar, threatened with dire consequences and forced to shut shop. The meat sellers try to point out, feebly, that they are exempted from the restrictions imposed by the government. But the police officer, a lady, would have none of it!

And now the winner. Three youths out on the streets at Baliguda in Kandhamal are given a placard with a message, asked to read the message aloud (for the benefit of the TV cameras, I guess) before wearing them on their shoulders, a la hardened criminals. The message, written in Odia, reads: “I am a selfish man. In my desire to have some fun, I have pushed society towards danger. And I am not even ashamed about it.” One of the youths, who obviously dropped out of school early, reads the three lines haltingly and with great difficulty. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the police officer then uploaded the whole video of the public humiliation of the three youths on social media. His explanation: this was required to drive the point about staying put at home during the lockdown period and deter other potential violators from violating the restrictions in place.

Also Read: Column: Corona Has Scored Many Firsts!

There are no prizes for guessing that all the people, mostly youths, referred to above, were treated by the police the way they were for violating restrictions during the 21-day, countrywide lockdown imposed due to the Corona scare. At any other time, all these acts would have drawn howls of protest from the human rights activists and the media, led to protests, demonstrations and dharnas. Videos of the public humiliation of the Kandhamal youths would have gone viral on social media. Petitions would have been filed with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC). In all probability, the customary notice asking for a reply ‘within four weeks’ would have been issued to the concerned authorities by both these statutory bodies by now!

But then this is not ‘any other time’. This is Corona Time. And extraordinary situations, as they say, call for extraordinary responses – and, I dare say, extraordinary, extra-judicial, extra-constitutional methods too! The silence of the ‘human rights defenders’ is deafening. It is as if all of them have gone into collective hiding to save themselves from the killer virus that is roaming the world at lightning speed looking for bodies to spread its venom. They are nowhere to be seen even on social media – which, mercifully, still remains unrestricted – where they are usually at their most vociferous in protesting against violation of human rights. Given the extraordinary powers the law enforcement agencies have assumed to enforce the ban on straying out of home, may be they are just cowering in fear themselves lest they are themselves hauled up for ‘abetting’ and ‘defending’ what has suddenly become the biggest ‘crime’ in the country. And one can hardly blame them for this. Who would want to take the trouble of staying in ‘isolation’ in the police station for a night and then put on a ‘14-day quarantine’ in the jail in these difficult times?

As for the media, it has, of course, done its primary job of reporting the incident. If it hadn’t, we would perhaps have never known about it. But difference in the way it was covered and the way similar incidents of human rights violation, invariably by the lath-happy police, have been covered in the past could not have been starker. In another time, the same incident would have been reported in a way that pointed an accusing finger at the police, would certainly have been accompanied by the customary ‘bite’ from a ‘human rights defender’ and would have become the basis for the petitions filed with the NHRC and OHRC. But on this occasion, there was nothing of the sort. Instead, there was an unmistakable tone of indulgence, even admiration, for what the police had just done. Perhaps too grateful to the concerned police officer for providing them a ‘juicy story’, no one bothered to ask him which section of the CrPC or provision of the law gave him the power to humiliate the youths in public and then making it far worse by posting the video on social media. As ‘awareness drives’ go, this one certainly takes the cake!

Does human rights go into ‘suspended animation’ in times of emergency, even as great a world emergency as the Corona menace? If yes, why is Indira Gandhi still being pilloried for suspending fundamental rights during the Emergency more than four decades after her death? We all know that the 44th amendment, enacted after the Janata Party came to power in the post-Emergency elections in 1977, restored the fundamental rights. We also know that the Supreme Court later ruled that even Parliament doesn’t have the powers to change what it called ‘the basic structure of the Constitution’. And it is obvious that fundamental rights are ‘basic’ to the constitution.

Also Read: Column: Two Sides Of ‘Janata’ Curfew

That, as of now, is the constitutional position. And to the best of the knowledge of this columnist, no constitutional amendments – or even amendments to the IPC and CrPC – have been enacted to deal with the extraordinary situation brought about by what US President Donald Trump has provocatively described as the ‘Chinese virus’.

One shudders to think about what other ‘novel’ methods does the police have up its sleeves to ‘raise awareness’ if, god forbid, the lockdown extends beyond the 21-day period!!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Baliguda, Corona-induced, Coronavirus lockdown, Covid-19 lockdown in Odisha, Human Rights, NHRC, odisha, OHRC, Sandeep Sahu, Sandeep Sahu on Coronavirus, scandeep, Suspended Animation 2020-03-27 23:16:54 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Arrest.jpg
Column: Corona Has Scored Many Firsts! https://odishatv.in/opinion/guest-writers/column-corona-has-scored-many-firstscovid-19-coronavirus-442295 Wed, 25 Mar 2020 11:01:46 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=442295

By Sandeep Sahu By now, everyone must have realized that this is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime. And in keeping with the unprecedented nature of crisis precipitated by the rampaging nCorona virus, we are witnessing some never before things and scenes in our society, polity and public life. Sample the following and […]

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Coronavirus

By Sandeep Sahu

By now, everyone must have realized that this is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime. And in keeping with the unprecedented nature of crisis precipitated by the rampaging nCorona virus, we are witnessing some never before things and scenes in our society, polity and public life. Sample the following and you will know what is being hinted at:

– Whenever we have faced a crisis – floods, cyclones and the like – in the past, one of the first things that the state government has done is to ‘cancel’ the leaves of all officials. The notification in this regard is invariably accompanied by a warning of ‘strong action’ against officials who fail to report at their offices/headquarters. This is the first time that the government is asking its employees not to come to the office and threatening ‘strong action’ against those who ‘come’ instead!

Also Read: Column: Two Sides Of ‘Janata’ Curfew

– Even private companies, who suck out the last ounce of blood and sweat from their staff in normal times, are forced to ask them to ‘work from home’ or just stay put at home, if that is not possible

– For the first time, employees appear to be having the upper hand in the owner-staff equation and are threatening to ‘report’ their bosses if they are forced to work

– For the first time in their life, people who come home only for lunch, dinner and sleep are learning the difficult ‘art’ of staying confined to their homes round the clock

– For the first time, those who cannot do without their evening ‘khati’ are learning to live without it

– For the first time in ages, all members of the family – men, women and children; young and old – are confined to home 24X7 – having breakfast, lunch and dinner together, spending quality time together, having fun together, sharing the joys of family life and doing things they have never done in years – playing carom, ludo, cards, video games, watching movies and so on. The Coronavirus might be spreading terror across the world. But it has united families like nothing else has done before.

– For the first time, people, even the busiest among them, now have all the time on their hands. In fact, they now have so much of it they don’t know what to do with it!

– For the first time ever, all other news has been pushed out of the TV screens. Entire TV news bulletins and whole newspapers are devoted totally and exclusively to news on the killer virus and the mayhem it is wrecking. It seems nothing else is happening in the state or the country

– For the first time, political leaders, who normally monopolize the TV screen, have gone off the radar, much to the relief of viewers. Even opposition leaders, who never tire of spewing venom against the government day in and day out, have kept their voluble mouths tightly shut, fearing a public backlash

– Perhaps for the first time, coming out of home is a punishable ‘crime’ and keeping people indoors is the biggest challenge for the law enforcement agencies!

– For the first time, people who can’t do without their daily quota of paan, cigarettes, gutkha and so on are learning to live without them. With the situation unlikely to ease in a hurry, many of them would have detoxed their bodies thoroughly and, hopefully, conquered their addiction! [Curiously though, buzzards are yet to feel the Corona pinch (at least in the capital city) and can procure their daily dose of ‘elixir’ without much fuss. The reluctance of the police and the administration to crack down on liquor shops even as they force all others to down their shutters is intriguing – and is creating/deepening the suspicion that the liquor-happy government is treating them with kid gloves as part of its liquor-friendly policy.]

– Deprived of the opportunity to spend quality time together at parks, malls, restaurants, coffee shops, fast food joints and other such places, young lovers have the unenviable task of having to restrict their ‘sweet nothings’ to chats on phone and social media apps!

– Young professionals, used to eating out 365 days a year, are learning or reviving the art of cooking and honing up their culinary skills in the process.

Also Read: Column: Odisha Needs More Like Him

The list can go on and on. I have no doubt whatsoever that each of you can add a few to it. But the idea is to look for ways to bear the vicissitudes of what is unquestionably an unprecedented, extraordinary and extremely difficult situation with a grin – and have some fun in the process too!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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columnist sandeep sahu, corona, Coronavirus lockdown, Coronavirus outbreak, Impact of Covid19, odisha, Sandeep Sahu 2020-03-25 16:31:46 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Coronavirus-1-1-1.jpg
Column: Playing Around With The Lord’s Money https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-playing-around-with-the-lords-money-440105 Fri, 13 Mar 2020 16:20:21 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=440105

By Sandeep Sahu The corona virus scare could not have come at a more convenient time for the ruling dispensation. It provided the government the excuse it was looking for to adjourn the ongoing budget session of the Assembly just when things were getting too hot to handle in the House over the suspicious deal […]

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SJTA Invites Fresh Bids From 16 Banks

By Sandeep Sahu

The corona virus scare could not have come at a more convenient time for the ruling dispensation. It provided the government the excuse it was looking for to adjourn the ongoing budget session of the Assembly just when things were getting too hot to handle in the House over the suspicious deal involving deposit of Rs. 545 crores belonging to the Jagannath Temple in the crisis-ridden Yes Bank. It also gave the ruling party some much needed breathing time to work out a better strategy to face the opposition on the issue when the Assembly reconvenes (assuming that it does) on March 29 for the remainder of the session.

But the events of the last few months in general and since the RBI moratorium on the bank leave no room for doubt that the government is caught on a real sticky wicket over the issue. Something just does not add up. The more the government wants to wash its hands off the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) decision to park Rs. 592 crores of temple funds in Yes Bank, the more it keeps tying itself in knots.

When the Yes Bank crisis hit the headlines on March 7, Law minister Pratap Jena was quick to allay apprehensions about the safety of the temple money and assure the people that the temple funds deposited in the beleaguered bank in the shape of two term deposits was ‘absolutely safe’. Barely three days later, Finance minister Niranjan Pujari wrote to Union Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman requesting her “to issue necessary instructions to the RBI to allow Jagannath temple to withdraw the deposits from the Yes Bank.” If the money was safe, as the Law minister had assured the people three days earlier, where was the need for an early withdrawal? The term deposits, in any case, would have matured on March 16 and 29 respectively, as he had informed. So where was the urgency?

When questions were raised about the propriety of temple funds being parked in a private bank in gross violation of the temple rules, ruling party spokespersons, instead of answering the questions raised, came out with the laughable ‘explanation’ that Yes Bank was a scheduled bank operating under the rules and guidelines of RBI! Not a word was said about the temple rules and whether any of it was violated. The facts that have emerged in the public domain so far suggest that Yes Bank was not in the list of 22 banks approved by the state Finance department where government money could be parked when Rs. 592 crores was deposited by the SJTA in March last year, thus flouting rules. Yes Bank was added to the list, almost as an afterthought to accord post-facto approval for the dubious transaction, only in July last year, four months after the money was deposited!

And now Finance minister Niranjan Pujari’s statement on the issue in the Assembly yesterday has raised more questions than it has answered. He said the decision was taken by the SJTA in a transparent manner and tenders were floated for the purpose. Twelve banks submitted quotations of which Yes Bank was chosen because it offered the highest interest rate of 8.61%, the minister informed the House. In the same breath, he also said the Temple Management Committee manages the funds of the temple and the government does not interfere in it. Look at the subtle attempt to juxtapose the specific with the general – SJTA took the decision but government doesn’t interfere in such things – and obfuscate the whole issue in the process! It was not clear from the minister’s answer whether the temple management committee had taken the call, gave the sanction for it or, at the very least allowed it in this particular case.

But anyone who has kept track of the developments on temple funds knows that members of the Temple Management Committee had, at a meeting on December 20 last year, expressed serious concern and outrage over the fact funds of the Lord had been taken out of a nationalised bank and deposited in a private bank keeping the Committee completely in the dark. Even the Gajapati King is believed to have expressed serious concern at the meeting. A decision was taken at the meeting to immediately withdraw the 47 crores deposited in the same bank as a flexi deposit.

The Finance minister’s bluff was called by Madhab Mohapatra, a member of the finance sub committee of the Temple Management Committee, barely hours after his statement in the Assembly. He spilled the beans on what had transpired at the Committee meeting on December 20 and laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of Bijay Sahoo, the chartered accountant member, for not keeping the body posted about such a crucial decision.

However, it would be unfair to blame Sahoo solely for the dubious deal. It is the collective failure of the Finance department and, by implication, the government itself. Those who keep track of the finance and banking sector were already aware that Yes Bank was hurtling towards a crisis when the decision to and deposit the temple money in the bank was taken in March, 2019. How did the Finance department, with its retinue of fat salaried experts, miss out on this? If nothing else, the fact that the money was deposited in a bank not in the list of its own approved list should have sent alarm bells ringing. But nothing of the sort happened. Two developments suggest complicity at the highest level. First, Yes Bank was added to the list of approved banks four months after the transaction. And second, the Temple Management Committee, the rightful authority to take a call on the issue, was kept completely in the dark about such a crucial decision.

In the absence of any concrete proof, it would be unfair to repeat the allegations levelled by BJP leader Mohan Majhi against two keep officials of the SJTA: its then head Pradipta Mohapatra and chartered accountant Bijay Sahoo. But anyone with even a cursory knowledge about how things run in the banking sector knows that such big ticket deposits are seldom done – and certainly not in such hush hush manner – for charity.

The state government’s explanation that the money was deposited in Yes Bank because it offered the highest rate of interest just doesn’t wash. It is not money belonging to a speculative, profit seeking individual but the Lord Himself! Hence, safety rather than profits should have been the priority. If profit was the soel consideration, the SJTA could as well have invested in the share market!

The conclusion: officials have merrily played around with the Lord’s money and the religious sentiments of crores of Jgannath loving Odias.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column, Jagannath temple money in Yes Bank, Sandeep Sahu, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration, SJTA funds in Yes Bank, Srimandir Money in Yes bank, temple funds in Yes bank, yes bank crisis 2020-03-13 21:50:21 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Puri-Srimandir.jpg
Column: Living Off The Lord https://odishatv.in/opinion/guest-writers/column-living-off-the-lord-439706 Wed, 11 Mar 2020 16:29:13 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=439706

By Sandeep Sahu It may sound blasphemous. But the unpalatable truth, shorn of any sugar-coating, is that Lord Jagannath, the presiding deity of Odisha, has become nothing more than a money-spinning venture for our powers that be. The Lord is the biggest brand the state has to offer and our rulers certainly know how to […]

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Lord Jagannath Temple

By Sandeep Sahu

It may sound blasphemous. But the unpalatable truth, shorn of any sugar-coating, is that Lord Jagannath, the presiding deity of Odisha, has become nothing more than a money-spinning venture for our powers that be. The Lord is the biggest brand the state has to offer and our rulers certainly know how to cash in on Him! An unholy nexus of servitors, temple officials and politicians has kept a vice-like grip on the affairs of the temple and its presiding deity – and has enriched itself in the process – even as crores of devotees have looked askance helplessly. But having ‘tasted blood’, they are not willing to loosen their grip at any cost. They have drawn a thick veil of secrecy around the goings-on and have gone about tightening their grip blissfully oblivious of the religious sentiments of Jagannath devotees and widespread outrage across the state.

Anyone who has kept track of the happenings related to the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri since the much-awaited Nabakalebara in July 2015, if not earlier, knows that the temple administration – and by extension, the state government – has made a complete hash of the management of the 12th-century shrine. The Nabakalebara, easily the biggest event in the temple calendar, was happening after a full 19 years this time, the first such occasion during the present regime’s time. And appropriately enough, over Rs. 2, 000 crores was spent in the lead up to the big event to give the surroundings of the temple and the holy town itself a complete makeover. Had every rupee been spent for the purpose it was intended, the town would have indeed undergone a makeover. But as anyone can see, much of it has literally gone down the drain. Had the money been well spent, the drains would not be overflowing and the Grand Road would not have been flooding after a brief shower and the state of sanitation in the town would have been much better. In fact, it would not exactly be an exaggeration to say there would have been no need for the Heritage City project launched by the state government last year! (Cleaning up the temple surroundings was part of the Nabakalebara plan).

Even before the Nabakalebara, thousands of crores had been pumped in over the years to give Puri a much-needed facelift. But all that we have to show by way of lasting achievement today is the new Nabakalebara highway, which has made travel between Bhubaneswar and Puri much faster, easier and comfortable. The Malatipatpur bus stand, built far away from the town for reasons no one really knows, stands as mute testimony to the monumental wastefulness of the work related to the marquee event.

Living by and spreading the message of universal brotherhood that is at the centre of the Jagannath cult is not on the table anymore. He is now just an icon to be commercially exploited in hoardings and tourism department brochures. A whole network of ancillary ‘industries’ has grown around the Lord with the unholy nexus having a finger in every pie. He is no more the Lord of the Land that we always knew Him to be. Instead, he has been reduced to the status of a subject by the new ‘lords’ who preside over our collective destiny! His money is something to be played around with and the Yes Bank fiasco is only the latest example of it. His elaborate and intricate set of rituals can be fiddled around at will with the monumental fiasco of the Nabakalebara the biggest of them all. And the Lord can do no more than look on helplessly – and the devotees no more than keep wringing their hands!

Curiously, however, even as the new ‘trinity’ of servitors, officials and politicians keep fleecing the Lord, there is an incredible, inexplicable lack of interest to find out how much is He really worth. Thousands of acres of the Lord’s land continues to be encroached upon – and even sold off – by the unholy nexus, but there is no visible desire to make an exhaustive inventory of the Lord’s landed property. The doors and the chests of the veritable treasure trove of gold, silver and other jewelry belonging to the Lord has remained firmly shut and thus away from public gaze – for decades. The government appears to be determined to resist all calls for making an inventory of the treasure trove of the temple, an exercise required to be undertaken every three years under the temple rules! To put things in perspective, the last such exercise was undertaken way back in 1985! Even the widespread outrage after the keys to the Ratna Bhandar were first reported lost and then mysteriously resurfaced at the wrong place, the government has been in no hurry to open the locks and do a thorough stock taking. It is not rocket science to know why. There is no way of finding out if the amount recorded as collections from the hundi is actually the amount donated by pilgrims either.

A major reason this living on and off the Lord has gone on unabated is that it involves no collateral damage. There is no price to be paid, either by way of the law taking its course or a political cost. The outrage is genuine for sure. But it doesn’t spill on to the streets with the kind of intensity needed for our rulers to realize that they will have a price to pay for it. The same set of familiar faces organize the same old perfunctory, made-for-TV protests; the same set of experts pontificate on TV debates about how the affairs of the temple are in a mess and the same old politicians and officials promise a ‘thorough inquiry’ and assure the public of ‘stringent action’ after every outrage. But far from being loosened, the stranglehold of the nexus continues to strengthen with each passing day.

I, for one, find it rather strange that while we Odias love our Jagannath, we are not outraged enough when He is treated shabbily by the new ‘lords’. There would be no end to the emasculation of the Lord till the people remain indifferent. It is time to wake up and take notice!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Lord Jagannath, Lord Jagannath's money, odisha, Odisha News, Puri Shrimandir, Sandeep Sahu, Sandeep Sahu on Srimandir funds, Sandeep Sahu's writings, scandeep, Srimandir funds in Yes Bank, yes bank, yes bank crisis 2020-03-12 14:11:17 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/puri-land-acquisition.jpg
Column: Ten Takeaways from Delhi Election Results https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-ten-takeaways-from-delhi-election-results-434281 Tue, 11 Feb 2020 15:27:30 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=434281

By Sandeep Sahu The Delhi voter has spoken – loud and clear. And the message that he has delivered has ramifications that go well beyond the boundaries of the National Capital Region (NCR). Here is this author’s take on the 10 big takeaways from the Delhi election results. 1. Hate as a political weapon is […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

The Delhi voter has spoken – loud and clear. And the message that he has delivered has ramifications that go well beyond the boundaries of the National Capital Region (NCR). Here is this author’s take on the 10 big takeaways from the Delhi election results.

1. Hate as a political weapon is not acceptable to the Indian voter. No matter what spin BJP leaders try to give, the fact is the entire campaign of the party was based on hatred for the ‘other’: Muslims in the main, but also Hindus who don’t subscribe to its idea of India. The voter in Delhi has given an unambiguous Thumbs Down to its effort to polarize the electorate on grounds of religion and ideology.

2. The Indian voter has learnt to differentiate between the general (Lok Sabha) elections and state (Vidhan Sabha) elections. He now understands that the issues and priorities in the two elections are different. He is not swayed by parties or leaders but has learnt to think and decide what is best for him in a particular election. In short, he has become more mature. The general elections in April-May and Assembly elections in several states in the last few years had already given indications of this newly emerging trend. The Delhi voter has only reiterated it in a more emphatic manner.

3. For the same reason, parties ranged against the BJP should resist all temptations to over-interpret it and see it as an unambiguous rejection of the Modi-Shah brand of politics or as ‘proof’ of the dwindling popularity of the Deadly Duo. For all we know, the BJP could still romp home if there is a Lok Sabha election tomorrow. After all, the party did raise both its seat tally and its vote share over the last election despite the resounding victory of the AAP.

4. The two preeminent ‘national’ parties – BJP and Congress – must understand that the ‘one size fits all’ narrative they have followed in the last few elections has run its course. They must realize they have to come with a state-specific narrative that the voter in the state identifies with, create conditions for local leadership to evolve and focus on strengthening their party organisation. In a way, the BJP was forced to take recourse to the same strident Hindutva and nationalist rhetoric that had come a cropper in Jharkhand only recently by the organizational weaknesses of its Delhi unit and the lack of a credible face to match Arvind Kejriwal.

5. Contrary to what BJP would like us to believe, the Citizen’s Amendment Act (CAA) – and its country cousins: National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) – do not have the endorsement of large sections of the electorate. The thumping verdict in favour of AAP and Kejriwal has made it abundantly clear that they are opposed not just by Muslims as the BJP wants us to believe, but by a large section of Hindus as well.

6. Vital sectors like education, healthcare, power, water and roads etc. matter a lot more to the voter than emotive issues that seek to create divisions in terms of Hindu vs Muslim, ‘desh bhakt’ vs ‘desh drohi’ and so on.

7. No matter how hard the Pink Paper economists try to posit them as a drain on the nation’s resources and ’wasteful expenditure’, what passes under the overarching label of ‘freebies’ do have a role in Indian politics and it’s not going to change anytime soon – more so the much bigger ‘freebies’ given ritually by all central governments, including the present one, every year never invite the frown of these grey eminences.

8. Congress has completely lost the plot. It must reinvent itself with a new non-Gandhi leadership, effect a thorough overhaul of its moribund party organization, free its state units from the vice-like grip of the ubiquitous ‘high command’ and give a measure of autonomy to its state units and find a new narrative that resonates with the largely young electorate or risk being pushed into the margins for good. Harping on its glorious past or singing paeans to its past stalwarts (read three generations of Gandhis) will not do.

9. The second successive resounding victory in Delhi has clearly whetted the appetite of the AAP, which has brought its national ambitions to the fore, as can be seen from the fresh membership drive the party launched and the slogan “Associate with AAP for nation-building” it put up at the party headquarters on counting day.

10. At the same time, the results must have also whetted the appetite of voters across the country. From now on, they will expect and demand solid work on the ground on ‘sadak, bijli, paani’ issues by political parties and not be fooled by empty rhetoric.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, BJP, Delhi assembly elections, Delhi CM Kejriwal, Delhi elections, Delhi polls, Delhi voters, Guest writer, Sandeep Sahu, Sandeep Sahu on Delhi Elections 2020-02-11 20:57:30 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Arvind-Kejriwal-after-Victo.jpg
Column: English From Class I- Cosmetic Changes Will Not Do https://odishatv.in/opinion/guest-writers/column-english-from-class-i-cosmetic-changes-will-not-do-429972 Wed, 22 Jan 2020 15:34:52 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=429972

By Sandeep Sahu At a time when the rest of the world is moving towards primary education in mother tongue, the Odisha government’s decision to introduce spoken English from Class I defies logic and betrays a gross misunderstanding of the problem that bedevils our primary education system. While announcing the decision yesterday, School and Mass […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

At a time when the rest of the world is moving towards primary education in mother tongue, the Odisha government’s decision to introduce spoken English from Class I defies logic and betrays a gross misunderstanding of the problem that bedevils our primary education system.

While announcing the decision yesterday, School and Mass Education minister Samir Ranjan Dash said it would ‘improve’ the standard of English among school students and wean their parents away from English medium schools. Far from doing any such thing, the decision actually has the prospect of weaning children away from school altogether and increasing the drop-out rate. The minister has attributed the decision to the ‘desire’ of parents. But are the parents necessarily the best judge in such matters? The findings of several exhaustive research studies suggest that children, especially in far-flung areas, are scared away by the insistence on teaching them in Odia,. This being the case, which is the language of the state, what chance does the introduction of English from the word go has of retaining them in school, forget ‘improving’ their English?

There can be no two opinions about the need to improve the general standard of English among our school students to prepare them better for the life ahead. The fact that 72% of students who failed in the high school certificate (HSC) examination last year failed in English underscores the gravity of the problem. But is introduction of English, even if only in the spoken form, in Class I the best way to go about setting it right? Let’s face it. For the vast majority of primary school students in our state, English is a ‘foreign’ language and it’s not easy for them to learn the language, even more so at such a young age. In my view, the old system in which school students were introduced to English alphabets at Class IV was the best. By that time, the students are expected to have learnt the basics of numbers and the Odia alphabet and are thus mentally primed to acquire a new language.

In any case, our students are doing poorly in English not because they are introduced to it late but because the quality of teaching is poor and the teachers are neither competent nor keen. If the former is the case, how it is that the earlier generation of students acquired a reasonable level of proficiency in English even though they started learning the language in Class IV? Here is another poser for the framers of our policy on primary education. If the standard of English of our students is poor, is it any better than their proficiency in Odia – or, for that matter, mathematics, science or any other subject? The fact of the matter is the vast majority of students, even at the high school level, are equally poor in Odia and cannot write a full paragraph incorrect Odia. The introduction of English at Class I level is certainly not going to improve their competence in other subjects. The decision thus is prompted by a wrong diagnosis of the problem.

The focus, therefore, should be on improvement of the general standard of teaching in our primary schools. Given the depths to which our primary education system has sunk, it is obvious that it cannot be done overnight and will be a long-drawn affair. It would involve meticulously planned and painstakingly implemented measures to improve the general standard of teachers through a rigorous process of recruitment, training and supervision. The emoluments and service conditions should be attractive enough to attract the best in the business. Simultaneously, all efforts should be made to make learning fun for the children. Planners should study how students of Saraswati Vidya Mandirs, who also study in the Odia medium, are doing so well in the board exams while students of government schools are proving to be laggards.

The state government is resorting to cosmetic changes like introduction of English because it doesn’t have the will or the capacity to undertake the painstaking efforts needed to improve the standard of our school students, But such changes will take us nowhere.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: Do Rape-Murder Convicts On Death Row Deserve Any ‘Mercy’? https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-do-rape-murder-convicts-on-death-row-deserve-any-mercy-426635 Tue, 07 Jan 2020 16:09:47 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=426635

By Sandeep Sahu It’s not over yet. Before we exult that “Justice has finally been done to Nirbhaya’, let us not forget that the four beasts who brutalized the 22-year old paramedic on a cold evening in Delhi seven long years ago still have the option of filing a curative petition against their death sentences. […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

It’s not over yet. Before we exult that “Justice has finally been done to Nirbhaya’, let us not forget that the four beasts who brutalized the 22-year old paramedic on a cold evening in Delhi seven long years ago still have the option of filing a curative petition against their death sentences. And minutes after a Delhi court cleared the decks for their execution on January 22 by issuing death warrants against them today, their lawyers have already made it clear that they are indeed going to file such a petition. Thus, we haven’t really heard the last of it, though it is highly unlikely that the courts would uphold it.

The long, tortuous course that this case, which united the country to revolt against the fast-growing menace of rape like nothing else had done before, raises the question: should perpetrators of such heinous crimes have the luxury of taking the justice system for a jolly good ride by using legal provisions like review petitions, curative petitions and mercy petitions to delay going to the gallows AFTER the Supreme Court has upheld their death sentence?

To put things in perspective, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against the four on May 5, 2017. In other words, the convicts have used legal loopholes to delay the inevitable for over two and a half years now. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say they have made a mockery of the legal system. Just sample this. After their conviction on May 5, 2017, they should have filed the review petition in 30 days, i.e. by June 4, 2017. But they made use of a provision in the law to get this 30-day deadline condoned. Mukesh finally filed his review petition on November 7, a good five months later. Vinay and Pawan filed theirs in December 2017 and Akshay did so – hold your breath – only on December 9, 2019! Among the reasons cited by his lawyer for the delay were the death of the mother, father-in-law not keeping well and Akshay was a poor person and hence didn’t have the luxuries that others have!!

That was not all. After their review petitions were rejected, the convicts should have filed their curative petitions within 30 days. But they did nothing of the sort and waited till the death warrants were issued today to do so. At every stage of the long drawn out trial, the convicts, through their lawyers, did everything they could to delay the process. When the case was in the Delhi High Court, they came up with the preposterous objection that the proceedings of the trial court were in English, which they didn’t understand. The court accepted their plea and the special investigation team (SIT), which probed the case, had to burn midnight oil getting hundreds of pages of papers translated. Perhaps encouraged by the leniency shown to the juvenile, who was part of the gang of rapists-murders, two of the four other convicts claimed during the trial in the lower court that they too were juveniles. The SIT had to go to their villages and get records from their schools to prove they were not. But there was a delay of weeks in the process.

On the day the equally spine-chilling Hyderabad gang-rape and murder of a young vet took place, President Ramnath Kovind made a case for denial of the mercy petition against convicts in minor rape and murder cases. The President’s comment was unexceptionable. But the question is why restrict it only to those who target minors? Why not bring all such ‘rarest of rare’ cases within its purview. Once the apex court has found a case to be ‘rarest of rare’ and awarded the death sentence to the convicts, there remains no valid ground for any ‘mercy’ to the convict. The ends of justice and fair trial would not be denied if the convicts in such cases are hanged immediately after the apex court delivers the death sentence. As it is, there are plenty of loopholes in the law for convicts to exploit and delay the trial through the lower court, high court and Supreme Court. Why extend the agony and torture for the victim’s family any further? After all, the Supreme Court would not give the death sentence to anyone without giving him more than a fair chance of proving his innocence even if there is clinching evidence against him – as in the case of Ajmal Kasab.

The nationwide reaction to the ‘encounter’ of the four convicts in the ghastly Hyderabad gang rape-murder case was only the latest proof that the people’s patience and faith in the justice system is eroding fast. This one measure – denying any ‘mercy’ to a person sentenced to death by the Supreme Court – would go some way in restoring some trust on the courts.

It goes without saying that this measure needs to be followed up with a series of other measures – better, more scientific investigation by police, more dedicated fast track courts, refusal of the plea for adjournment on frivolous grounds and so on – before confidence in the judicial process is restored fully. If all these measures are not taken, calls for the public execution of rape convicts would only grow louder.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: Gender Equality: We Need Equitable Division Of Labour, Not Cooking Work https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-gender-equality-we-need-equitable-division-of-labour-not-cooking-work-426338 Mon, 06 Jan 2020 16:44:02 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=426338

By Sandeep Sahu My late mother, I am sure, would have certainly balked at the proposition. She would have been positively horrified at Twin City Commissioner of Police (CP) Sudhansu Sarangi’s exhortation to young women the other day not to marry those who don’t know cooking. A member of the old school, she enjoyed nothing […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

My late mother, I am sure, would have certainly balked at the proposition. She would have been positively horrified at Twin City Commissioner of Police (CP) Sudhansu Sarangi’s exhortation to young women the other day not to marry those who don’t know cooking. A member of the old school, she enjoyed nothing more than cooking and serving the choicest dishes for all and sundry, not just her family members. She wouldn’t allow me anywhere near the kitchen, forget about cooking.

With that kind of an upbringing, it’s hardly surprising that I am a complete disaster as a cook! In all these years, all I have managed to learn by way of cooking is to make tea. On the couple of occasions, I tried my hand at cooking, I made a complete mess of it. On the first, I tried making an omelette but had to throw the stuff into the waste bin since the dish I ‘cooked’ turned out to be a mangled mess of burnt egg. On the second, I again set out making an omelette but ended up making it ‘bhujia’ instead! But at least it was edible. After this, I had to abandon the idea of cooking altogether.

Before you brand me an MCP, let me make it clear that I am all for men learning cooking. Though I failed miserably in my Mission Cooking, I love playing the ‘tahalia’ (helper); peeling off onion, potato and green peas, slicing vegetables and stuff like that. I am also perfectly fine washing soiled dishes and helping out my wife in the kitchen in any other manner I can. I also do sundry other works at home like cleaning the toilets, clearing the cobwebs, buying provisions and vegetables and so on. Thus, I can legitimately claim to have outgrown any gender bias that I may have grown up with.

Making knowledge of cooking an eligibility criterion for men to get married may have been meant figuratively rather than literally. But there is little doubt that the idea behind the CP’s comment was unexceptionable. Gender equality demands that man and wife share all domestic chores, including cooking, more so when both are working. I would like to believe many men are already doing it. I have many friends who relish cooking and are wonderful cooks themselves, even better than their wives. [In fact, I envy men who can cook well.] With gender biases melting away – as in my case – in the new order, more and more men would certainly come around in future.

But if women in Odisha take the CP’s exhortation too literally, I am afraid it has the potential to upset man-woman relationship and cause an upheaval of sorts socially. What about a prospective groom who doesn’t know cooking at the time of marriage but is ready to give a solemn commitment – maybe even a signed undertaking – that he would learn it after the marriage? Will his commitment be accepted and the marriage go ahead? Or does he get ‘rejected’? Even assuming that women would reject a groom without culinary skills outright, will their parents go along with her decision, if he is otherwise a ‘suitable boy’? Since we are talking gender equality here, does a groom also have a right to impose a condition on the prospective bride – doing a job or knowing driving, for example? In any case, there could well be many women, both working and housewife, who, like my mother, love to lord over the kitchen – especially in rural areas where modern-day concepts of gender equality haven’t reached yet, if not among the urban, educated elite

A more practical solution, in my view, would be leaving couples alone to work out their equation without either side dominating or imposing conditions. What we actually need is a mutually worked out equitable distribution of domestic work between husband and wife and not necessarily an equal sharing of cooking responsibilities.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: How About A ‘Cold Store Mission’? https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-how-about-a-cold-store-mission-425887 Sat, 04 Jan 2020 14:48:26 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=425887

By Sandeep Sahu The visuals say it all! A bag of onion falls off a truck carrying the stuff from Nasik to Sambalpur near Debahal in Bargarh district and there is a stampede of sorts!! People stop their cars bang in the middle of the road and start picking up as much of the onion […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

The visuals say it all! A bag of onion falls off a truck carrying the stuff from Nasik to Sambalpur near Debahal in Bargarh district and there is a stampede of sorts!! People stop their cars bang in the middle of the road and start picking up as much of the onion strewn all over the road as they can before the manna from heaven runs out. The scene emphasizes the point that the impact of the onion crisis that has gripped the country for over three months now is not restricted only to the poor. After all, Rs 150 for a kg for an item we just can’t do without does make a big hole even in the pockets of the middle classes!

And the remedy found by the Centre to tide over the crisis – imports from countries like Turkey, Egypt and Afghanistan – has turned out to be worse than the disease itself. A piece of onion weighing 800 grams is unheard of in a country long used to the conventional stuff grown in the country. Forget consuming such king-sized onions, Odias had never heard of anything like that. Highly perishable commodity that onion is, it is hardly surprising that there are few takers for the onion imported from Turkey, not just in Odisha but across the nation. Several states have now expressed their reluctance to lift the onion imported by the Centre to tide over the crisis that has gripped the country for over three months now pushed prices of this kitchen essential heavenwards. When this is the situation when only 5, 000 tons out of the 45, 000 tons that India has placed orders for has come, one can only imagine what it would be like when the full consignment arrives. One doubts if those who placed the orders had a look at the stuff they were importing or thought about whether the consumers would buy it.

This is yet another instance of a lack of foresight, understanding of ground realities and proper management of the domestic onion market by both the Central and state governments. Otherwise, how does one explain away the soaring prices of onion in a country that is not just self-sufficient, but actually a surplus country in onion production? The total average annual consumption of onion in India is around 180 lakh tons while the total annual production stands at about 260 lakh tons. With that kind of production-consumption ratio, there is no good reason why there should be a shortage necessitating imports of onion. If such a situation arises in the country almost every second/third year, the reason has to be gross mismanagement of the onion market that creates the grounds for cartelization and manipulation of the market by a few big players rather than any weather phenomenon like deficient or excessive rains. While there is no denying the fact that unseasonal rains in Telangana and Karnataka have badly hit kharif production, the prolonged crisis has more to do with mismanagement of stocks than deficient production. Why, for example, did the government of India allow exports till the end of September when it should have been obvious long before that time that there is going to be a crisis soon?

Closer home, the Onion Mission launched amid great fanfare by the Odisha government in 2015 in a bid to increase onion production in the state has managed the incredible of bringing down output from 3.97 lakh tons in 2015-16 to 3.79 lakh tons in 2017-18! The idea was to increase acreage under onion as well as to set up enough cold stores to ensure that the stuff produced doesn’t rot and farmers get a remunerative price. But as in the case of the Potato Mission, another much-touted initiative by the state government, none of the objectives has been achieved four years down the line. A few months ago, we saw the rather unedifying spectacle of farmers selling their produce for prices as low as Rs 2/3 a kg ! In one fell swoop, all the sops and incentives offered to farmers to increase acreage under onion went down the drains. Who will take up onion cultivation after such an experience?

Can’t the state government forget, for the time being, all about the Potato and Onion Missions and start working on a Cold Store Mission, please? If there is the will, there is no reason why we can’t set up 5-10 cold stores every month so that we have well over a 100 cold stores in a year’s time. If the government can shout from the rooftops that it managed the incredible feat of putting together a marquee event like the Hockey World Cup in ‘90 days flat’, surely it can show the same sense of urgency in doing something that is a matter of life and death for lakhs of farmers. This single measure would ensure three things. First, it would ensure that farmers don’t have to distress sell their produce for a pittance and incur heavy losses in the process. Second, it would make sure prices in the state market don’t shoot through the roof even if crops fail in Nasik or Kurnool fail for some reason. Third, it would encourage more and more farmers to take to cultivation of this must-eat item for every Odia.

Once we have enough cold stores, we may even start thinking about growing onion in the kharif season too, instead of only in the rabi season as at present.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: A Requiem For BBC Hindi Radio https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-a-requiem-for-bbc-hindi-radio-424954 Tue, 31 Dec 2019 15:49:23 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=424954

By Sandeep Sahu As the world prepares to usher in the New Year, I am steeling myself to say, with a heavy heart, goodbye to the BBC Hindi service radio. By the time this piece reaches you, the iconic service on 25 and 41 meter band of short wave radio that had kept millions of […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

As the world prepares to usher in the New Year, I am steeling myself to say, with a heavy heart, goodbye to the BBC Hindi service radio. By the time this piece reaches you, the iconic service on 25 and 41 meter band of short wave radio that had kept millions of listeners across the world informed and enthralled for decades would have come to an end. The all too familiar introduction of the presenter – “Yeh BBC ki Hindi Seva hai” – will not be heard anymore from the first day of 2020.

The demise of BBC Hindi would no doubt be mourned by its devoted listeners across the world. But for this writer, it is as if a part of me has died. If others will miss their tagline “Yeh BBC ki Hindi Seva hai”, I shall miss my signing offline “Sandeep Sahu, BBC, Bhubaneswar.” I was eagerly looking forward to celebrating 25 years of a glorious and highly rewarding association that began early on the morning of March 11, 1995. But alas! That was not to be!!

As I look back on the long journey with BBC Hindi, the many wonderful memories I have had along the way keep flooding back to the mind in a torrent: the sleepless nights, the early mornings, the tension and challenge of meeting the deadline; the treks through inhospitable terrain, working non-stop for days – and nights – together. In a way, it gave me my identity as a journalist. Even now, I get goosebumps when I occasionally run into a stranger who immediately recalls my reporting during the Super Cyclone in 1999 once I introduce myself. BBC also gave me the confidence to stay away from a regular job for close to a decade at the start of the millennium.

The long stint with the BBC has taken me to the farthest corners of my state – from the ‘cut off area’ in Malkangiri to the thickly forested areas of Similipal, from the Maoist den in Kandhamal to the lush green paddy fields of Bargarh, from the theatres of man-elephant conflict in Dhenkanal and Keonjhar to the theatre of man-crocodile conflict in Bhitarkanika. In October 2014, it even took me to Vishakhapatnam to report Cyclone Hudhud. Thanks to BBC, I got to know my state better and see much more of it than I would have done otherwise.

It was a matter of immense pride that even in the remotest part of the state, I never had to explain what BBC was or what its full form was. The abbreviation itself was enough. I doubt if any other media organization enjoys that kind of familiarity. It was my passport to the high and mighty: from a sitting Deputy Prime Minister of the country (LK Advani) to a former Prime Minister (VP Singh), from my childhood hero Rajesh Khanna to celebrated writer VS Naipaul, from successive Chief Ministers of the state to the mercurial Laloo Prasad Yadav.

It also gave me my ‘fan moment’. On my first visit to Bhawanipatna after I started working for BBC to report on starvation deaths, I was pleasantly surprised to find Suresh Agarwal (now Sureshbhai to me), a long time, faithful listener of BBC Hindi who had come all the way from Kesinga just to meet the person he had only listened to on radio till then. On another occasion, while returning after interviewing Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda deep inside the forests on the Kandhamal-Ganjam border, I was not-so-pleasantly surprised to find an AK-47 wielding young Maoist woman from Chhattisgarh tailing me. “Aap hi Sandeep Sahu hain na?” asked the girl who informed me that she was among the around 300 odd armed cadres who had been summoned from the neighbouring state for the ‘Nayagarh operation’ in February, 2008 and among the handful f cadres who had stayed back. She said she had been listening to my reports on the ongoing Kandhamal riots. “Yahaan jungle ke andar na akhbar hai, na TV. Isliye ham BBC radio ke jariye hi bahar ki duniya ki khabar rakhte hain. Aap ke report roz sunte hain,” she said.

It was the first time I realized that radio – and BBC Hindi radio, in particular – was the only medium available to millions of people in far flung areas with no access to newspapers or TV even in Odisha, not a Hindi speaking state by any stretch of magination. The realization got further buttressed during the hostage crisis three years later. In February 2011, the crisis managers of the Odisha government sent me a desperate SOS one evening. After rushing to the state guest house, I realized that they wanted a recorded appeal to the Maoists, who had taken Malkangiri Collector Vineel Krishna hostage, to release him by Prof Hargopal, the chief negotiator from the government side, to be aired in the next morning’s bulletin since there was no way they could reach out to them at that late hour. The appeal was duly aired and Vineel Krishna was duly released a few hours later. It is hard to describe the feeling of immense satisfaction in playing a small role in defusing a crisis.

It would take a whole book to narrate all the wonderful experiences I have had as a reporter for the best-known media organization in the world. But as Hindi radio reaches the end of the road, I would just like to place on record my deep sense of gratitude to the organization for the opportunity to be part of it for so long and to all my wonderful colleagues, former colleagues and seniors who have guided and encouraged me over the years. It has been a huge honour to be part of this crowd for someone whose other tongue is not Hindi. It has had a huge role in the making of me as a journalist.

To end this rather melancholic piece on a positive note, I am happy to inform that all is not over yet. While today marks the end of the road for BBC Hindi radio, BBC Hindi online and TV are alive and kicking!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: Tipplers Submit 7-Point Charter Of Demands To Govt https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-tipplers-submit-7-point-charter-of-demands-to-govt-424827 Tue, 31 Dec 2019 02:52:03 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=424827

By Sandeep Sahu To The Hon’ble Chief Minister, Odisha Sir, On behalf of the Tipplers’ Association of Odisha, I express our sincerest gratitude to you for your kind decision to allow liquor shops and bars in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri to stay open till 1 am on January 1 in ‘public interest.’ The decision is […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

To

The Hon’ble Chief Minister, Odisha

Sir,

On behalf of the Tipplers’ Association of Odisha, I express our sincerest gratitude to you for your kind decision to allow liquor shops and bars in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri to stay open till 1 am on January 1 in ‘public interest.’ The decision is yet another feather in your already overcrowded cap. In taking this courageous decision, you have proved beyond doubt that unlike the rest of the ill-informed and killjoy population, you don’t despise us or consider us a blot on society. Instead, you consider us rightful members of the ‘public’. We are now convinced that your government truly thinks of all Odias, including us tipplers.

But while thanking you from the core of our hearts for this revolutionary and progressive decision, we would like to place a few demands for your kind consideration and necessary action.

1. The Excise department may kindly consider extending the ‘zero hour’ to 1 am on January 2, if not more. You will agree that New Year celebrations are not limited just to New Year eve, but stretches well into the New Year. This is necessary to allow revellers the full opportunity to usher in the New Year in the right ‘spirit.’

2. Kindly consider exempting tipplers from breath inhaler checks and fines for drunken driving on New Year eve. We are sure you will realize that there is no fun in getting thoroughly sozzled while ushering in the New Year and then having to cough up a hefty fine or ending up at the police station in the wee hours. Without this measure, the whole noble purpose behind allowing liquor shops to remain open till 1 am gets completely lost. Drinking and breath analysis obviously can’t go together. If they do, we shall be compelled to view the relaxed sale hours for liquor as a trap to boost revenue. But since you have been kind enough to postpone the strict enforcement of the new Motor Vehicle Act for a three-month period twice, we are hopeful that you will show similar kindness and consideration for tipplers too.

3. In the interest of fairness and in deference to regional sentiments, please consider extending the relaxation in sale hours of liquors to the whole state. Otherwise, your government runs the risk of being accused of a bias for coastal areas. Why should our brethren in say Bhawanipatna or Baripada be deprived of the fun? They have as much right to enjoy the New Year as those living in the Twin City and Puri, don’t they? Such a decision would go a long way in convincing the people across Odisha that your government thinks of all Odias, irrespective of where they live or choose to spend the New Year eve.

4. In the interest of fairness again, kindly consider extending the relaxation in sale hours to country liquor shops as well so as not to invite allegations of a class bias. After all, our poor brothers and sisters, who cannot afford ‘foreign’ liquor, too have a right to celebrate the New Year.

5. Kindly instruct the liquor shops to introduce an incentive scheme for tipplers on New Year’s Day whereby anyone who buys a full bottle (quart/750 ml) gets another one, even if not a quart, free. This will encourage tipplers to buy more and drink more. This single measure will go a long way in achieving the targeted excise revenue for FY 2019-20. Free ‘chakhna’ with liquor would just be the icing on the New Year cake!

6. As a considerate gesture in view of the unique nature of New Year celebrations, please press police and other government vehicles into service to drop those too drunk to drive home. This will serve two purposes. First, it would obviate the need for breath analyser tests on the tippler and second, it would make sure there are no accidents due to drunken driving.

7. Last but not the least, please declare January 1 as a public holiday for all government and private establishments so that the revellers don’t have to wait till evening to start their celebrations.

Sir, we the tipplers of Odisha would remain perennially grateful to you for your government’s determined push for liquor throughout the length and breadth of the state. As responsible citizens, we do realize that liquor is a major source of revenue for any government and assure you our fullest cooperation to your government in its endeavour to augment its cash-strapped exchequer. We shall leave no stone unturned to ensure that the Rs. 4, 600 crore target the Excise department has set for itself during this fiscal is not just achieved, but is exceeded.

Sincerely Yours

President, Tipplers’ Association of Odisha,

Bhubaneswar

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: We, The People, Are Barking Up The Wrong Tree https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-we-the-people-are-barking-up-the-wrong-tree-424653 Mon, 30 Dec 2019 02:11:15 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=424653

By Sandeep Sahu It’s far from over. Three staff of the Esplanade mall in Bhubaneswar, including the lady sales manager who allegedly led the attack on Argus TV journalists Swati Jena and Pramod Mohapatra on Saturday, may have been arrested in view of the rare show of strength and solidarity by the media fraternity. But […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

It’s far from over. Three staff of the Esplanade mall in Bhubaneswar, including the lady sales manager who allegedly led the attack on Argus TV journalists Swati Jena and Pramod Mohapatra on Saturday, may have been arrested in view of the rare show of strength and solidarity by the media fraternity. But make no mistake. The battle is far from over. The forces they have taken on wield so much clout with those who control our destiny that they are unlikely to throw in the towel so easily. They will come back hard for sure.

These ‘forces’ include not just mall owners, but also owners of industries, mining companies, hotels, private educational institutions, apartments and ‘corporate’ hospitals, besides ruling party leaders and blue-eyed officers of the government. Together, they constitute such a powerful entity that the entire law enforcement machinery, the administration, the judiciary and the media become utterly helpless before them. Secure in the knowledge that the government will not act tough against them, they brook no opposition or dissent in carrying out their nefarious designs.

A few days ago, the DGP of the state, no less, was served marching orders for his ‘audacity’ in ordering the sealing of another mall in Bhubaneswar for encroaching into public space and ‘sitting over’ its application for a fire safety license for what the government believed was an inordinately long time. The government was so pissed off with the DGP that it did not want to wait till the next morning and asked him to hand over charge to the interim officer named close to midnight! A few years ago, another DGP not only lost his job, but had a false vigilance case instituted against him for his temerity in ordering the seizure of vehicles carrying cash meant for distribution during the elections!

This being the fate of DGPs, what chance does a mere reporter have? After every such attack on the public or the media, the tendency is to blame the police for inaction. But we don’t realize that they are as helpless as the rest of us are. Last Thursday, hundreds of ruling party members, not one of them wearing a helmet, held a bike rally in the heart of the capital city to celebrate the party’s foundation day. But three days after the incident, the commissionerate police are still ‘looking at’ CCTV footage to identify the traffic rule violators. Meanwhile, the average commuter has no choice but to quietly pay the hefty fine if he happens to drive helmetless. In view of what has happened in the past to the numero unos in the force who dared to act, which police officer would risk incurring the wrath of the powers that be and being shunted out in the process?

Our anger, therefore, should be directed not against the police, who are mere pawns, but against those who prevent them from taking action as per law. Where do you think owners of private hospitals get the confidence to fleece patients and harass them with impunity? The NHRC orders the Odisha government to seal Apollo Hospitals, Bhubaneswar after finding it guilty of an illegal kidney transplant. But the government chooses not to act on it. The NGT asks the government to take possession of forest land that a leading educational institution has encroached on. But the government refuses to comply. Why should those who own these establishments bother about the public when they know they have the government on their side? We are actually barking up the wrong tree!

To return to the present case, the police have, obviously under instructions from the powers that be, booked the three staff of the Esplanade mall under easily bailable sections. Thus, they can be expected to be out on bail in the next 48 hours, if not earlier. And it will be back to business as usual. They will continue to collect parking fees, cocking a snook at the BDA notification terming such collection illegal. The journalists too will go back to work. Till the next time someone in the fraternity is attacked, that is!

A few weeks ago, Kendrapara MP Anubhav Mohanty misbehaved with and publicly humiliated the reporter of a leading TV channel without any provocation whatsoever. “Just desserts,” exulted BJD apologists in unison because the channel was allegedly carrying out a ‘tirade’ against the MP. What excuse do they have to defend the attack on Swati Jena, the braveheart? She was not carrying out a politically motivated tirade but was reporting an issue that affected the public: the illegal collection of parking fees by the mall.

After the furore since Saturday evening, the BDA vice-chairman has now come out saying he would ‘study’ the High Court order the mall has cited to justify carrying on collecting parking fee. One wonders what the BDA was doing all this while. Why did it take a collective protest by journalists to feel the need to look at what the order actually says? The interim High Court order only restrains the BDA from taking any ‘coercive action’ against the mall but does not uphold the collection of parking fees. It is obvious the BDA knew this all along but chose to look the other way.

At its 23rd Foundation Day, BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the 4.5 crore people of Odisha is the ‘family’ for the party. But the ‘family’ members, who have kept voting for the BJD in election after election, should realize who its real family members are: unscrupulous businessmen, thugs, goons and charlatans. They control all levers of power, not the people.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: Has Pradeep Majhi Started Thinking Of Life Beyond Congress? https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-has-pradeep-majhi-started-thinking-of-life-beyond-congress-424250 Sat, 28 Dec 2019 02:17:03 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=424250

By Sandeep Sahu Pradeep Majhi is the last person you would expect to say the kind of things for which he has been at the centre of media attention for over 36 hours now. He is even more unlikely to stubbornly defend what he was caught saying on camera during the 12-hour Nabarangpur bandh organized […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

Pradeep Majhi is the last person you would expect to say the kind of things for which he has been at the centre of media attention for over 36 hours now. He is even more unlikely to stubbornly defend what he was caught saying on camera during the 12-hour Nabarangpur bandh organized by the district Congress to protest alleged police inaction in the Kosagumuda minor rape and murder case on Thursday. While his exhortations to party workers to keep ‘petrol and diesel ready’ and wait for instructions to set things on fire can be explained away, though not defended, as a spur of the moment outburst of someone who has reached the end of the tether, the same cannot be said about his subsequent defence of the act and flat refusal to apologise for it. If nothing else, at least the fear of censure and action by his party should have made him see reason and express regret. The fact that it did nothing of the sort points to the possibility that it was not an impulsive outburst but part of a well thought out game plan.

The point to note in the whole affair is that the uncharacteristically intemperate utterances and its inexplicable defence has done enormous damage to the Congress – not just in Odisha but nationally – at a time when the Modi-Shah government is doing everything it can to attribute the violence during the nationwide protests against CAA/NRC to the party. For Pradeep Majhi is not an ordinary worker but a working president of the state unit and a former MP of the party. As someone who has been around for quite some time, he couldn’t possibly have been unaware of the harm his conduct is doing to the party’s cause. As was only to be expected, the BJP has pounced on his misdemeanor and used it to paint the entire Congress party as a votary of violence while proclaiming to be a party that believes in the Gandhian principle of non-violence. Conversely, it has provided a heaven-sent opportunity to the BJP to present itself as an apostle of non-violence!

In the circumstances, the only explanation for his conduct one can think of is he has made up his mind to part ways with the Congress and possibly – and this is only in the realm of conjecture at the moment – join the BJP. Significantly, the Congress is yet to take any action against him or, at the very least, publicly censure him, more than a day after the incident. Rather than promise action, PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik chose to apologise on his behalf! It is possible that the party has already got wind of his plans and is being soft on him in a desperate bid to keep him in the party. Majhi, after all, has been a rare bright spot for a party that has been in a state of rapid and constant decline in the state for nearly two decades. He is among the few leaders in the party who still have substantial grassroots support in undivided Koraput district in general and Nabarangpur in particular. Though he eventually lost, he was among the two or three Congress candidates from the state in the last Lok Sabha election who were being talked about as possible winners. His act thus has put the Congress in a real dilemma.

It is not without significance that Majhi, normally at the forefront of most public demonstrations organized by the party, has been completely silent for the last six months – till he decided to hit the streets on the Kosagumuda gang rape and murder case. At a time when the Congress is busy organizing protests across the country against CAA/NRC, its man for all seasons has remianed totally silent on the issue. If he has suddenly decided to break his silence now – and that too with an open call for violence – it can mean only one thing: he certainly knew what he was doing.

The young leader has obviously weighed the pros and cons of his action well. If the party acts against him, he would go down as a martyr to the cause of the honour of tribal girls, which would stand him in good stead in future elections. He could go to town claiming his loyalty to the tribal cause is greater than his loyalty o the party. If it doesn’t, he could still go to town claiming that the party didn’t act against him because the cause he took up was just.

Either way, it’s a win-win situation for the young tribal leader.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: BJD Is Not Just ‘Dependent’ On Naveen; He Is Indispensable To It https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-bjd-is-not-just-dependent-on-naveen-he-is-indispensable-to-it-424074 Fri, 27 Dec 2019 02:07:00 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=424074

By Sandeep Sahu Did he mean it? Or was he just being disingenuous? It was, of course, magnanimous of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo Naveen Patnaik to claim, while addressing the 22nd foundation day celebrations of the BJD on Thursday, that the party was not ‘dependent’ on him for its survival and growth. But was […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

Did he mean it? Or was he just being disingenuous? It was, of course, magnanimous of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supremo Naveen Patnaik to claim, while addressing the 22nd foundation day celebrations of the BJD on Thursday, that the party was not ‘dependent’ on him for its survival and growth. But was he being truthful?

Ask anyone – from the man on the streets to the political pundit – what would happen to the BJD in the event of Naveen not being around to lead it and the answer, I guess, would be the same: it would simply implode. In a party where all decision making power, even the most mundane and trivial one, vests exclusively on the chief, office bearers are there just to make the numbers and internal democracy is a completely unknown commodity, it is unthinkable how it can survive, let alone grow, without him.

Imagine a situation where Naveen is nowhere in the picture and think of what would become of the BJD. Can you think of another leader who can hold the party on a tight leash as he has done for 22 years now? To put it differently, is there any other leader inside the party or outside whose word, no matter how unpalatable, would be accepted by everyone from a panchayat level worker to a cabinet minister without a whimper? Without Naveen to campaign for them, how many of the leaders can win an election? Without Naveen to lead from the front, can the party as a whole win an election?

The fact is the BJD, like most ‘regional’ parties in India, is a one-man party. {There are, of course, a few one-woman parties too, TMC and BSP being the two most obvious.] All decision making in such parties flows from one person – or one family in some cases. Anyone who refuses to fall in line or play ball is immediately shown the door, internal democracy be damned. It is a tribute to Naveen Patnaik’s leadership quality that his party has constantly grown from strength to strength for over two decades, pushing the two biggest national parties closer and closer to the margins, even as many other regional parties have stumbled, risen and fallen again. It is his charisma and his connect with the people that have made this possible. Take him out of the equation and the BJD could well be reduced to a veritable akhada with factional leaders fighting their turf battles. With a resource-rich BJP waiting in the wings, the party could disintegrate in next to no time.

It is instructive to note in this context what happened to the man who once enjoyed immense power in the BJD, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, when his ambition got the better of him. Then the man who lorded over the party and hand-picked party candidates was reduced to a non-entity in a matter of days when he grew too big for his boots. The failed coup of March, 2012 emphasised, if any emphasis was needed at all, that he enjoyed power at the mercy of Naveen. Once he fell from grace and lost his mercy, he had nowhere to go. The Chief Minister’s trusted private secretary VK Pandian has, of course, enjoyed similar or even more power in both the party and the government than Pyari, but only at the mercy of his boss. Had it not been the case, cabinet ministers and bureaucrats several rungs higher than Pandian would not be taking orders from him without question. As a serving bureaucrat, he would be the last person to even contemplate upstaging his boss, more so in view of the ignominy that Mohapatra suffered for failing to keep his ambition in check. The moral of the story: the only person who matters in the BJD is Naveen Patnaik.

This being the case, what does one make of his declaration that the party is not ‘dependent’ on him? For one thing, the announcement has to be read in conjunction with his other major pronouncement made during the course of his typically brief speech: that the BJD is a people’s movement. Therefore, it appears to be aimed more at the people of Odisha than the party cadres (who, in any case, know that it’s a blatant lie!). In this context, one recalls his earlier statement, in response to a question by eminent journalist Prabhu Chawla on his succession plans. “The people of Odisha would choose the successor,” the BJD supremo had said on that occasion. The idea in both cases was to vest ownership of the party in the ‘people’ of the state while emphasizing his humility and detachment.

For another, it could be an exercise to prepare the ground to roll out a succession plan that the BJD boss may already have up his sleeve.

Whatever it is, it doesn’t change the one thing that everyone knows only too well. BJD is not just ‘dependent’ on Naveen; he is indispensable to it.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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Column: Cosmetic Changes Mean Nothing https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-cosmetic-changes-mean-nothing-421633 Sun, 15 Dec 2019 02:20:33 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=421633

By Sandeep Sahu “A rose”, Shakespeare had said, “by any other name would smell as sweet.” To paraphrase the bard, “A rotten egg by any other name would smell as foul.” So what exactly is expected to change after the renaming of Sachivalaya Marg as Lok Seva Marg? Will the traffic cops along the way […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

“A rose”, Shakespeare had said, “by any other name would smell as sweet.” To paraphrase the bard, “A rotten egg by any other name would smell as foul.” So what exactly is expected to change after the renaming of Sachivalaya Marg as Lok Seva Marg? Will the traffic cops along the way suddenly become less officious and more courteous to the people? Will the cops on duty become less high-handed while dealing with the ‘Lok’? Will the Chief Minister’s convoy of 20+ vehicles wait at the traffic signals for the light to turn green from now on? Will the people in Bhubaneswar, at the very least, start calling it Lok Seva Marg from now on?

For that matter, what has changed since the renaming of what we still call the sachivalaya (secretariat) as Lok Seva Bhavan in July this year? Have the imposing gates of the building been thrown wide open for the people? Does a man with a grievance now have a greater chance of getting an audience with the secretary or a senior official of a department and having his grievance redressed or, at the very least, heard? Have the policies of the government made by babus in the Lok Seva Bhavan become more people-friendly?

Ask any common man who has been to the Lok Seva Bhavan since its renaming and there is little doubt that his answer to all these rhetorical questions would be an emphatic ‘No’. So, what’s the point, after all?

It has to be admitted that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with a change of name per se, whether of the secretariat, the road connecting it or anything else. The idea behind the renaming of the sachivalaya, therefore, is unexceptionable. But if it was intended to usher in a fundamental change in the mindset of the babus, then the government has grossly underestimated the enormity of the problem and the determination of the babus to resist any such move. If all it needed for those who see them as ‘masters’ to become ‘servants’ overnight was a mere change of name if the building they operate from, it would have been done a long time ago. Meera Mohanty, the Odisha correspondent of The Economic Times, was at her sarcastic best when she responded to a tweet on the renaming of the Sachivalaya Marg thus; “That’s what prevented those at the Sachivalaya from doing lok seva?”

Ironically, this change of focus from the ‘sachiva’ (secretary) to the ‘Lok’ (common man) is being attempted by a government that has made the ‘sachivas’ all-powerful. Forget the common man, these officers don’t give a damn to their own ministers. The only plausible explanation for the change, therefore, is that the government has no intention of changing the bureaucratic work culture and is merely indulging in gimmickry.

A few years ago, the government renamed the road starting from Convent Square in Bhubaneswar, passing through Satya Nagar and ending at the flyover, previously known as Abhimanyua Samantasinghar Road after the famous Odia poet of the 18th century, as Mother Teresa Road. Writers, intellectuals and proud Odias in general protested. But the government stood firm. So much for lok seva.

Not all changes of names, however, are unnecessary. The change of the state’s name from Orissa to Odisha – and Oriya to Odia – was badly required and the Naveen Patnaik government deserves all praise for it. [It is another matter though the Chief Minister still pronounces the name of the state he has been ruling for nearly two decades as ‘Udisha’!] There was no reason for this historical wrong to continue. After all, no one in the state has pronounced it as anything other than Odisha. Sometimes, names are changed to respect local sentiments. There is thus no problem in renaming of Phulbani as Kandhamal by the Biju Patnaik government in the 1990s either. But a change for the heck of it achieves nothing.

To be fair to the Naveen Patnaik government though, it is not alone in changing names of roads or buildings. Politicians of all hues do it knowing full well that it isn’t going to change a damn thing on the ground. And yet they do it. The Modi government has been on a renaming spree since it came to power in 2014, renaming Allahabad as Prayag, Mughalsarai station as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya station, Aurangzeb Road as Abdul Kalam Road and so on. Have all these changes achieved anything on the ground except erasing some historical Muslim names from the public space?

If the state government is really serious about the spirit behind the renaming of Sachivalaya as Lok Seva Bhavan, here is what it must do for a start. It should allow the ‘Lok’ orderly access to the Lok Seva Bhavan premises, ask all babus to fix a particular time in the day to listen to the people’s grievances and ensure that their grievances are addressed within a fixed time limit.

In the absence of such measures, cosmetic changes like the change of a name means nothing.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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Column: When Exactly Was The BJD ‘Secular’? https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-when-exactly-was-the-bjd-secular-421088 Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:13:53 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=421088

By Sandeep Sahu Those who value secularism are aghast at the BJD’s decision to support the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, even after its suggestion to include Sri Lanka in the list of countries from where minorities have fled into India due to religious persecution, was rejected. But frankly, this writer cannot understand why […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

Those who value secularism are aghast at the BJD’s decision to support the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, even after its suggestion to include Sri Lanka in the list of countries from where minorities have fled into India due to religious persecution, was rejected. But frankly, this writer cannot understand why they should be shocked or even surprised. If they have been living under the illusion that the BJD is a secular party so far, it is their fault, not the BJD’s. If only they had cared to follow the birth and evolution of the party since 1997, there would have been no room for surprise.

For those who might have forgotten the circumstances under which the BJD was born in 1997, here is a quick recount. Biju Patnaik, the Janata Dal patriarch in Odisha, died on April 17, 1997. Naveen Patnaik, Biju Babu’s younger son, was fielded by the Janata Dal as the candidate from the Aska Lok Sabha constituency, which had fallen vacant after the senior Patnaik’s death and expectedly won easily. Before the year was out, those who had invited Naveen to take over his father’s mantle split the JD and formed a new party named after Biju Babu; the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) with the BJP playing midwife. The irony could not have been starker. The party named after Biju, who remained implacably opposed to the BJP till his last breath (even calling it a ‘party of Gandhiji’s killers’) joined hands with the BJP even before the late leader’s first death anniversary. For a full 11 years after that, the two parties remained the closest of allies, ruling the state and partnering each other in Parliament. Naveen can hardly be faulted if some people still thought he remained wedded to secularism.

Ignoring this 11-year bonhomie between the BJD and the BJP, commentators across the country hailed Naveen as the new icon of secularism after his claim in the run up to the 2009 elections that ‘every bone’ in his body is secular. They cited his parting of ways with the BJP after the Kandhamal riots as clinching proof of his secular credentials. Little did they know that this theory is a cleverly thought out lie propagated and perpetuated by Naveen’s image-makers and apologists.

Consider this. The anti-Christian pogrom in Kandhamal began almost immediately after Hindutva warrior Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his followers were gunned down by Maoists on the night of August 23, 2008. And Naveen broke off with the BJP on March 7, 2009, barely days before the elections. In other words, he was perfectly happy staying in bed with the BJP for well over six months after the riots, never once uttering a word against the latter’s alleged role in the riots during this time. Let us not forget that it was Chief Minister Naveen, who was also the Home Minister of the state at the time (as he is now), who had allowed the 150 km-long procession through the district by the Hindutva brigade with the body of the Hindu leader. Anyone who has followed the sequence of events at the time would tell you that it was this procession, during which provocative slogans were raised, that raised the communal temperature and prepared the ground for the month-long riots that followed.

For those who still attribute Naveen’s decision to severe his ties with BJP to the Kandhamal, here is what he had told reporters while announcing the decision late in the evening on March 7, 2009; “Unfortunately, the seat-sharing talks between BJD and BJP have failed. Therefore, we will go to the polls separately. The formula proposed by BJP is unacceptable to us.” There was not even a passing mention of the BJP’s role in the Kandhamal riots. It was pure electoral calculation, attributed to the then BJD ‘margadarshak’ Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, and had absolutely nothing to do with principles of secularism. The ‘secularism’ angle was obviously an afterthought. If some people still chose to bury, like ostriches, their heads in the sand and continued to believe in the myth of the BJD’s secular credentials till now, it was entirely their fault.

This, however, is not to suggest that Naveen is communal. He is actually an iconoclast in religious matters. The only religion that he believes in is the religion of power. He is perfectly happy sleeping with a supposedly communal party like BJP as long as his religion is protected. That is the short and long of it.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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Column: Sorry, Mr. Chief Minister, Cheerleading Is Not The Media’s Job! https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-sorry-mr-chief-minister-cheerleading-is-not-the-medias-job-420924 Wed, 11 Dec 2019 16:02:06 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=420924

By Sandeep Sahu Speaking at the annual day function of Prameya News 7 on Tuesday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the media, whether print or electronic, should ‘always’ focus on ‘positive news’. But is it really the job of the media to spread positivity? Aren’t our governments, including Mr. Patnaik’s own, already doing a remarkable […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

Speaking at the annual day function of Prameya News 7 on Tuesday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the media, whether print or electronic, should ‘always’ focus on ‘positive news’. But is it really the job of the media to spread positivity? Aren’t our governments, including Mr. Patnaik’s own, already doing a remarkable job of it? “All is well”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tells a boisterous crowd of Indian Americans that has packed into a football stadium in Houston, US in September in 11 different Indian languages and the crowd goes into raptures. “Aapan Mane Khusi To?” our popular Chief Minister asks at every second public meeting and the public shouts back in unison, “Bahut Khusi.” A visibly pleased CM then says to even greater applause, “Mun bi bahut khusi.” Maybe that is what the CM meant when he called on the media to focus on the ‘positive’. And in a country where hero worship is a religion in its own right, such ‘positive’ vibes are infectious.

But should the media also become part of the ecstatic crowd and cheer along with the rest? The answer to that, I am afraid, has to be an emphatic ‘No’. The media’s job, as I see it, is to cut through the maze of lies, half truths and garnished truths that governments, businesses and others of all hues keep serving to the public through their extensive propaganda machines. Instead, its job is to tell the people the real, unvarnished truth; to read the fine print and between the lines to separate the truth from the half-truth and expose the lies and half-truths routinely pushed by governments into the public domain. To put it crudely, the media must play what is derisively called ‘the drain inspector’s role’ to perfection.

Take the full page, coloured advertisement with the mandatory picture of the smiling visage of the Chief Minister that adorn the front page of all newspapers, including national ones, today. “Odisha wins prestigious World Habitat Award”, it screams. [The reference is to the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission (OLHM), nicknamed ‘Jaga Mission’ for convenience, that seeks to provide land to slum dwellers.] But what it slyly leaves unsaid is it is one of the six bronze medal winners across the world, the Gold medal jointly going to Karnataka (for a project that gives land rights to the marginalized Koraga community) and Catalonia, Spain (for a scheme that provides liveable housing to the poor by renovating empty homes). Notwithstanding the fresh revelations, our irrepressible Law minister, who of late has developed a foot-in-the-mouth disease, continues to maintain that Odisha has emerged ‘No. 1’ in the world! For obvious reasons, the state government would not want the ‘whole’ truth to come out. But should the media buy into the partial truth hook, line and sinker? Or dig deep into it to ferret out the whole truth?

There is more. A note published on the World Habitat website quotes Bimala Maharana, one of the supposed beneficiaries of the ‘Jaga Mission’ thus; “I am extremely happy with the new look and facilities of the slum of the slum, including the development of the open space where people gather and socialize. It is such a delight to see our children and grandchildren paying joyfully in this secure and exclusive area. XXX Our slum has now become truly a liveable habitat.” Now listen to what the same Bimala Maharana, a resident of the Ishaneshwar slum in Bhubaneswar, had to say to OTV on the issue. “We are making do with this ramshackle house made with mud, tin and asbestos after it was completely damaged by Cyclone ‘Fani’. You can see for yourself. Twenty five years ago, they (government officials) had fixed this token on our door. No one has come to us since then nor has anyone told us that we will get land or house.” Forget the ‘new look’ playground that the World Habitat site talks about, the surroundings of Bimala’s apology of a house appear no different from any urban slum in the city; cramped, bursting at the seams and filthy!

The Bimala Maharana quoted on the World Habitat site is just a name without a face. The Bimala Maharana shown on OTV is a person in flesh and blood. So which Bimala should one believe? And this is not the first time a supposed beneficiary of a scheme has contradicted the government’s claim made on his/her behalf? If you remember, the much-touted KALIA scheme too had more than its fair share of such beneficiaries who later embarrassed the government with their counter-claims.

To cite another example of misleading government propaganda, the Naveen Patnaik government has been routinely claiming that Odisha is the ‘first state’ in the country to pass the Lokayukta Act when the truth is the honour goes to Uttarakhand, not Odisha. Undeterred by the truth, the government has persisted with repeating the lie ad nauseam for well over five years with the result that the average Odia really believes Odisha was indeed the first.

Dig deep into any government scheme or claim – housing, reduction of poverty, evacuation of vulnerable people before a cyclone and so on – and you will find the ‘truth’ buried under a heap of half-truths, sugar-coated truths and downright lies. Since the average person neither has the time nor the inclination to do the digging, the responsibility of doing the job and separating the wheat from the chaff for the benefit of the people falls on the media. If that makes the media negative, irresponsible, a perennial whiner, a ‘drain inspector’ or even anti-state, so be it.

Sorry, Mr. Chief Minister. Cheerleading is not the media’s job.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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Column: These ‘Taare Zameen Par’ Are Too Precious To Be Lost Before Time https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-these-taare-zameen-par-are-too-precious-to-be-lost-before-time-420719 Tue, 10 Dec 2019 14:55:28 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=420719

By Sandeep Sahu There is such a deluge of ‘shocking’ news these days that we have stopped being shocked by most such news. But this one is in a category all its own. Forced by his elder sister against his will to go to school, a Class IX student in Mayurbhanj district shut himself up […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

There is such a deluge of ‘shocking’ news these days that we have stopped being shocked by most such news. But this one is in a category all its own. Forced by his elder sister against his will to go to school, a Class IX student in Mayurbhanj district shut himself up in a room, poured kerosene and set himself on fire this morning. He died of his severe burn injuries while in the hospital. If this mind-numbing incident does not stir the conscience of those in charge of school education in the state, nothing will.

Preliminary reports suggest there was no pressure from the school authorities. Nor was there a love angle, not uncommon among today’s teenagers, to the suicide. His sister says the boy was never keen to go to school and always had to be persuaded, cajoled or forced to go. He simply dreaded school.

Have our authorities ever pondered over the question as to why school has become such a dreaded place for our children, especially in tribal areas? Why students have to be forced against their will to go to school despite all the reforms aimed at ensuring that it is a place of fun and not a nightmare? The fear of corporal punishment obviously can’t be a reason since we have banned it long ago – though doubts remain whether the ‘punishment free zone’ rule is being followed in letter and spirit in schools in remote places.)

Corporal punishment was very much a part of the ’curriculum’ when I was in school at various remote places in tribal Odisha. I remember we had a teacher from somewhere in Puri district, who used to bring back a rich collection of ‘betas’ (supple sticks) every time he went home to break on our backs on his return. He would actually apply mustard oil on them before use for greater impact! I managed to escape punishment more often than not since I was a reasonably good student. But there were occasions when the wrath of the teacher did fall on me like a ton of bricks. On one such occasion, he beat me up black and blue for something I had done or not done (I don’t quite remember). While bathing me before school the next morning, my mother was aghast to see the deep, blue marks that the teacher’s ‘beta’ had left on my back and duly complained to my father. “I will tell the teacher the next time he commits a mistake, he should beat him even harder but spare his eyes,” he said laconically. I was furious with my father, normally a very quiet and loving person. But I don’t remember me – or any of my class fellows – ever dreading school or hating the teacher for that.

It is possible today’s children think and react to situations differently than children of my generation. They are under the kind of pressure – from peers, teachers and parents – that our generation never knew of. Under tremendous pressure from all quarters to ‘perform’, numerous students commit suicide every year after failing in examinations or getting poor grades. To their young, impressionable minds, failure in exams appears to be the end of life. Whose duty is it to convince these tender minds, with love and patience, that there is always a next time and that life is too precious to be lost for failure in a mere examination? Family members, teachers or society at large? I think the greatest responsibility is on the family. They must deal with their wards with love, care and understanding, encourage them to share their worries, anxieties and fears with them and not burden them with their expectations. There is a need to delve deep into the mind of the child to know if anything is bothering him/her. Everyone should realize that not every child can be good at studies. If a child is not good at studies, the parents and teachers must try to find out what s/he is good at and encourage them to pursue it while making efforts to find ways to make studies interesting for them. They need to be told about the numerous examples of great men who were not good students in school.

These “Taare Zameen Par” are too precious to be lost before time!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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Column: The Perils of ‘Instant Justice’ https://odishatv.in/nation/column-the-perils-of-instant-justice-420111 Sat, 07 Dec 2019 13:02:12 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=420111

By Sandeep Sahu Such jubilation on the streets is seen only when Team India wins a major world cricket tournament like the World Cup. Sweets were exchanged, crackers burst and “Hyderabad police Zindabaad’ slogans rent the air across the country. In Hyderabad, scenes of people showering flowers on city police personnel were reminiscent of lawyers […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

Such jubilation on the streets is seen only when Team India wins a major world cricket tournament like the World Cup. Sweets were exchanged, crackers burst and “Hyderabad police Zindabaad’ slogans rent the air across the country. In Hyderabad, scenes of people showering flowers on city police personnel were reminiscent of lawyers showering rose petals on Mumtaz Qadri, a security man in Pakistan who killed liberal Pakistani politician Salman Taseer, all along the way as he was being taken to a court in 2011. And why not? Hyderabad police, after all, had done something that the ‘nation’ wanted by meting out instant justice and shooting down all four accused in the horrific gang rape and murder case of a young veterinarian in the city – just nine days after the incident. India had found a real-life ‘Singham’ in VC Sajjanar, the Hyderabad police commissioner who has hard-earned the sobriquet ‘encounter specialist’ for his trigger-happy ways since the time he was SP in Warangal. Like his screen counterpart, this ‘tough cop’ believes in delivering instant justice, the law of the land and established police procedure be damned! Does it really matter whether the ‘encounter’ was genuine or not? The big takeaway was ‘justice’ had been delivered just the way the people wanted. In one fell swoop, all the ‘sins’ of Hyderabad police – making the father of the victim run from one police station to another to register his complaint on the night of the incident on the grounds of territorial jurisdiction, notwithstanding sections 154 and 166 A of the CrPC that make it mandatory for the police to register a complaint no matter where it is lodged – were forgiven. The message had been sent out loud and clear to all rapists in the country: “Exercise control over your libido or you will be eliminated the way the Hyderabad rapists were.” All potential rapists are now shitting in their pants with fear of being ‘encountered’ and the nation can now sleep peacefully. From now on, India will be a rape-free country!

“I am with Hyderabad Police” trended on social media, that new barometer of the public mood, all day. Anyone who questioned the police version was condemned by the people. This writer too had his share of condemnation for playing spoilsport when the nation was in a celebratory mood. Many of those who aimed barbs are perfectly normal, sensible people who otherwise hail other posts by the author. Going with the public mood, our political class, including our honourable members of Parliament sworn to the Constitution, too hailed the police action. Those who held a different view hedged their bets fearing public opprobrium.

There is one hitch though. What if the police have shot down the wrong people in a desperate effort to assuage the nationwide outrage over the blood-curdling incident, realising that the moment was ripe for such an action in view of the countrywide outrage? How do we know for sure that the four gunned down early on Friday morning, barely hours after police got custody of the accused, were indeed the four who raped and killed the victim and then burnt her body? Well, the police have cited CCTV footage and the confessions of the accused, haven’t they? But does the footage show them raping, killing and burning? No, they only show them in the vicinity of the place where the incident is said to have taken place. As for the confession, will it be the first time the police have ‘extracted’ a confession from an accused in their custody wrongly charged with a crime? To put things in perspective, even Ajmal Kasab, the dreaded terrorist who the entire nation saw on the CCTV footage shooting down innocent people at the CST station, was convicted and executed not on the basis of the CCTV footage or his confession, but on the basis of eyewitness accounts and corroborative evidence. Grainy CCTV pictures can never substitute hard evidence in a criminal case.

Before I am accused of ‘siding with the rapists’, let me clarify that even I believe they were the actual culprits. But that does not give the police the right to kill someone. What are the courts there for in that case? If we give the police the unfettered right to play judge, jury and executioner, we should dismantle all courts, including the Supreme Court, shouldn’t we? There are far too many holes in the police story to establish beyond all reasonable doubt that it was a genuine encounter. Why did the police take the accused to the crime spot for the reconstruction of the crime and collection of supplementary evidence at that unearthly hour? If it was necessary to do it because of the possibility of a mob creating a law and order situation, why was adequate precaution not taken? Why were they not handcuffed? If the unarmed accused snatched away the rifles of the policemen, all 10 of whom were armed, shouldn’t they be pilloried for their gross inefficiency rather than feted with flowers? If the police were forced to shoot, why didn’t they aim below the hip as required? If, as Sajjnar has claimed, the accused fired on the police party, how come none of them received any bullet injury? One can go on and on. But all these questions suggest that there were enough grounds to suspect that it was a staged encounter carried out under the same formula that the real-life ‘Singham’, VC Sajannar, had first tried out when he supervised the killing of three youths arrested for throwing acid on two girls in 2008.

The anger and the celebratory air, of course, is understandable. After all, the rapists have had a free run in the country for far too long, testing the patience of the nation and driving them to exasperation. But I am afraid we are barking up the wrong tree. We are venting out our anger which should have been logically directed at our political class and the judiciary for their numerous acts of commission and omission that have led us to the sorry pass. Significantly, the Union Home ministry recommended the rejection of the mercy petition of Vinay Sharma, one of the convicts in the equally horrific Nirbhaya case in Delhi, on the day the Hyderabad encounter took place. What was it doing all this while? Why did it not reject it as soon as it was received? Why were enough fast track courts not set up to ensure speedy trial of rape cases? President Ramnath Kovind has done well to make a case for rapists convicted under the POCSO Act being denied the right to mercy (again on the day of the encounter). But why can’t it be extended to all convicted rapists once the Supreme Court has upheld a death sentence?

As for the judiciary, it is not as if it doesn’t take up cases out of turn on an urgent basis. The recent hearing of the petition filed by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress combine against the Maharashtra Governor’s decision to swear in Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister is a case in point. Why can’t rape cases be treated with the same urgency, not just by the apex court but also by the lower judiciary?

If we really want justice for rape victims, we should demonstrate the same anger that we display after every chilling rape case like Nirabhaya, Kathua, Unnao and now the vet in Hyderabad to force the politicians to treat rape as an issue of national importance. Let us not be so blinded by anger and outrage that we lose our sense of right and wrong. If we back and hail trigger-happy police dispensing instant justice, who we criticize day in day out, we will end up as a banana state and a rogue republic.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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Column: Enemies Before Polls, KALIA, KISAN Now Bhai Bhai https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/column-enemies-before-polls-kalia-kisan-now-bhai-bhai-419735 Thu, 05 Dec 2019 14:50:09 +0000 https://odishatv.in/?p=419735

By Sandeep Sahu So, the ‘game changer’ has turned into a ‘game spoiler’! Of course, it was too good to last and had to unravel at some stage. After all, the outgo from the state exchequer on account of just the first six monthly installment of Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) alone […]

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By Sandeep Sahu

So, the ‘game changer’ has turned into a ‘game spoiler’! Of course, it was too good to last and had to unravel at some stage. After all, the outgo from the state exchequer on account of just the first six monthly installment of Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) alone was worth Rs 2, 552 crore, a huge amount in a state as cash-strapped as Odisha. To put things in perspective, it is well over half the total excise revenue sought to be earned by the Naveen Patnaik government, even at the cost of earning all-round condemnation for its missionary zeal to promote alcohol, in the 2019-2020 fiscal!

The first signs that the BJD government was developing cold feet over the scheme, which earned such rich electoral dividends for the party in the last elections, were visible almost as soon as it began its fifth consecutive innings. First, BJD MPs strongly pitched for the merger of KALIA and PM-KISAN in the very first session of the new Lok Sabha after the elections. This was in sharp contrast to how it had seen the latter before the election. In the run up to the elections, the ruling party had gone hammer and tongs at the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for failing to include the landless among its beneficiaries and for the ‘meagre’ amount (Rs 6, 000 a year) given under the scheme. PM-KISAN is no match for KALIA, it announced pompously. It also lambasted the Modi government for ‘conspiring’ to hold up the second installment of KALIA through the misuse of the Election Commission.

The second sign was even more tell-tale. Having announced before the election that it would disburse the second tranche of KALIA, held up because of the election code of conduct in force at the time, on the very first day the new government assumes office, the government now just doesn’t know where the money would come from. As per figures revealed by Agriculture minister Dr. Arun Sahoo in the just concluded winter session, only 10 lakh out of 52.05 lakh beneficiaries have received the second tranche of KALIA assistance so far.

How things have changed in just six months flat! The same Naveen government, which saw no merit in the PM-KISAN before the election, has now decided to merge KALIA with it. The cabinet has already approved the proposal and it’s now just a matter of time before the merger becomes a fait accompli. After the merger, the state government would now have to fork out just Rs 4, 000 a year, instead of Rs. 10, 000 as it would have done under KALIA – the rest coming by way of the ‘meagre’ assistance under the PM-KISAN scheme! The BJD’s own words have now come back to haunt it. Having pilloried the Centre for excluding the landless, it is now left carrying the can and has no option but to continue paying Rs. 12, 500 a year to the 14, 70, 000 landless families engaged in farming for three years.

The farmers of the state must be feeling cheated. After all, they would now get just Rs 10, 000 a year instead of Rs 16, 000 (Rs. 10, 000 under KALIA+Rs. 6, 000 under PM-KISAN). But there is little they can do about it. They can punish the government, if at all, for the breach of trust only in 2024, a long way to go. And one can trust the Naveen Patnaik government to come with another mouth-watering scheme on the eve of the election and laugh all the way to the (vote) bank!

KALIA, however, is not the only example of the cynical exploitation of voter sentiment by the ruling BJD. The Naveen Patnaik government now sees merit in the Ayushman scheme of health insurance launched by the Modi government, the river linking project, the coastal highway project … you name it. Of course, to be fair to Naveen, he is not alone in this cynical, make-belief game. Narendra Modi can certainly give him a run for his money when it comes to hoodwinking voters. After successfully pushing a false narrative during the election campaign that his party was determined to ‘uproot’ the Naveen Patnaik government from the soil of Odisha, he suddenly became his supposed adversary’s best friend after the elections, even getting him to back his candidate for a Rajya Sabha seat the BJD was set to win hands down!

Not just Modi and Naveen, every political leader worth his salt is now a past master in the ‘art’ of leading the voters up the garden path and then leaving him in the lurch as soon as elections are over. If the voters cannot see through their cynical games, it is their fault – not the leaders’!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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BJD, BJP, columnist sandeep sahu, Kalia, KISAN, odisha, PM-KISAN, Sandeep Sahu, Sandeep Sahu's articles, Sandeep Sahu's stories 2019-12-05 20:20:35 https://img.odishatv.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/PM-KISAN-KALIA-Merger.jpg