Saturday, March 07, 2015
In November 2000, the state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of 16 eastern districts of Madhya Pradesh. At that time noted sociologist Dr Ilina Sen and her husband Dr Binayak Sen, who had chosen to make it their home and share the lives of its people, had no inkling, perhaps, of how this political act would one day so dramatically impact their own lives.
Barely seven years later, Dr Binayak Sen was arrested and charged with sedition. The manner in which he was branded as the “mastermind of the Naxalites” and the case built around him by the state and a compliant local media had a marked impact.
Friday, August 05, 2016
By MITHILESH MISHRA | INNLIVE
Unbanked blood transfusion is illegal. But short of blood, rural hospitals in Chhattisgarh say it is not unethical.
In April, a woman walked into a hospital in Baitalpur in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh, bleeding heavily. She was in her thirties, and had ruptured her uterus while delivering a baby at home in a nearby village. She needed urgent medical attention. When a van dropped her off on the highway, she trudged two kilometres to Baitalpur's Evangelical Mission Hospital – only to be turned away.
The hospital had an operation theatre and a gynaecologist, but no blood.
With buses plying only once in two-three hours from Baitalpur to Bilaspur, the district headquarters, getting blood from the blood bank takes at least four to five hours, if not a day. Without a quicker way to access blood, the hospital is not equipped to handle an emergency.
“She had a ruptured uterus and was anaemic," said Dr Kusum Masih, the medical superintendent of the hospital who is also a gynaecologist. "We could not operate without blood."
The doctors sent her to Bilaspur about 35 km away – but she died on her way there.
Eleven districts with no blood banks
There are 16 blood government-run blood banks and 30 private ones across 27 districts of Chhattisgarh.
The deficit of blood in the state is about 48%, said Dr SK Binjhwar, from the State Blood Transfusion Council. According to the World Health Organisation, a country should have a stock of blood equivalent to 1% of its population. By this standard, Chhattisgarh alone needs 25 lakh units of blood at any given point – but it usually collects 16 lakhs units a year.
What's more, 11 out of 27 districts in Chhattisgarh do not have blood banks – the largest deficit in any state in the country. In all, there are 81 districts in the country without blood blanks, according to data from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Most of them are concentrated in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and the North East.
For Chhattisgarh, a state with very high rates of anaemia, especially among women and children, the shortage of blood throws up multiple challenges.
According to the National Family Health Survey, more than half of the women of the state – about 57% – suffer from anaemia, as do nearly three-quarters, or 71.2% of children aged 0-5. About 2% of both women and children have severe anaemia, with a haemoglobin level below seven grams per decilitre of blood, for which most patients need blood transfusions.
Apart from this, about 60,000 children are estimated to have sickle cell anaemia, a severe form of the condition caused by a genetic blood disorder.
Anaemic women additionally face a higher risk of postpartum haemorrhage, which is a leading cause of maternal mortality in India. The maternal mortality rate of Chhattisgarh is 230 deaths for every 1,00,000 live births, as compared to the national average of 178.
For a rural hospital in Chhattisgarh, there is just one option in case of emergencies where blood is required – to refer a patient to a bigger facility. This often means that the person reaches the hospital in a critical condition, or dies on the way, as in the Baitalpur case.
Some hospitals are countering this by opting for an illegal way of giving blood, called unbanked direct blood transfusion. Under this, the blood of a willing donor’s that matches with the recipient’s group is collected, tested for infection with a rapid blood kit and then transfused without roping in a blood bank.
Take the case of a 40-year old woman from Shahdol district in Madhya Pradesh, who had been having extremely painful menstrual bleeding for nearly four months.
“Khoon girat rahe [I was bleeding all the time],” she said. “But, I would still have to work in our fields. How can I stop?” She was also not able to eat or walk and had severe chest pain.
On June 28, she somehow made it to a rural hospital in Chhattisgarh, which shares a border with Madhya Pradesh, travelling more than 200 km by train and bus with her husband and son.
When the doctors examined her blood, they saw she had a haemoglobin count of 4.6 – the normal range for women is between 12.1 and 15.1 – which meant she needed immediate transfusion. She also required an abdominal hysterectomy, as she had a large fibroid in her uterus.
In all, she needed three units of blood.
“I do not know how she managed to travel so far,” said a doctor at the hospital. “There is barely any oxygen reaching the organs. We have patients coming in with haemoglobin count of one as well. We can't direct such patients to other hospitals as their condition is already critical.”
The names of the hospitals and the doctors have been withheld because it is illegal to get blood from any other establishment other than a blood bank.
In this case, her son gave one unit of blood through unbanked direct blood transfusion, while two other units were arranged legally.
Doctors have been arrested in the past for using unbanked blood in other states.
Hospitals that practice unbanked blood transfusion usually have a list of donors in the community who can come and give blood when required. These donors are usually not paid – unless they demand payment and the situation is dire.
In 1996, the Supreme Court outlawed professional blood donation – that is, donating blood for money – and ordered the establishment of National Blood Transfusion Council to oversee and strengthen policies and systems governing blood transfusion in the country. In 1998, unbanked directed blood transfusion was disallowed.
In 2002, the council allowed the setting up of blood storage centres that were allowed to keep blood from licensed blood banks (but were not authorised to collect it). These storage centres could come up in villages and towns, while the mother blood banks would usually be in the district headquarters or cities.
In Chhattisgarh, there are 60 such storage units, mostly in community health centres, many of which do not use the blood at all and direct patients to go to other healthcare facilities. For instance, the community health centre in Gaurella, attached to the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences in Bilaspur, has never approached the storage unit for blood. “I am not even sure it [the centre] functions,” said Dr VP Singh, who is in charge of the blood storage centre in the Bilaspur college.
Patients from community health centres often make their way to Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a non-profit in Ganiyari, near Bilaspur city. “Often, we see patients who are bleeding copiously after childbirth and are referred to us in that condition,” said Dr Yogesh Jain, one of the founders of the hospital.
Even hospitals that do use blood storage units, such as Jan Swasthya Sahyog, Shaheed Hospital in Dalli Rajahara in Chhattisgarh's Balod district and the mission hospitals, said they get insufficient units of blood.
“Our storage centre is attached to a mother blood bank in Durg,” said Dr Saibal Jana, chief physician of Shaheed Hospital. “We need about 150 units per month, but have barely about 35 units from the bank. Last month, they gave us only 10.”
Jan Swasthya Sahyog has an understanding with a private blood bank in the city, which gives them blood nearing its expiry date for free. This they use for scheduled surgeries, when the blood requirement is known.
For every unit of blood taken from the bank, hospitals are supposed to send a replacement donor to the mother blood bank. This unwritten rule holds true even for hospitals that send relatives of patients to collect blood from a blood bank – private or public – for a planned surgery.
This is against the country’s National Blood Policy, which prohibits coercion in enlisting replacement donors and aims to phase replacement donations out.
Dr SK Binjhwar, from the State Blood Transfusion Council in Chhattisgarh, said that the state has 80% voluntary donation. Public health activists, however, said this figure is highly debatable and that more than 99% of the blood is likely collected through replacement donation.
“A hospital that has a blood storage unit organises blood donations camps for mother blood banks,” said Bhinjwar. “This is enough to meet the demands of the districts.”
The demand for a replacement donor for the mother blood bank hangs like a sword over the heads of patients’ family members.
Many donors from the hinterlands are not willing to travel to the nearest blood bank in the city to replace blood. It’s also difficult to find eligible donors in the immediate family – if a patient has anaemia, it’s likely that members of her family would also suffer from the condition.
Many also have an apprehension towards donating blood, fearing it causes weakness.
In such a scenario, touts who can provide ready donors for a price thrive. There are many such businesses in operation near blood banks in the state that provide donors for a sum of money to provide replacement units to the banks.
Rajesh Sharma, who runs the laboratory in Jan Swasthya Sahyog said that touts realise that people are looking for donors for replacement donation when they see an icebox in their hands. To combat this, Jan Swasthya Sahyog sends a patient's relative for replacement donation, they now send a letter (pictured below) that has to be signed by the blood bank.
People who are unaware about the dangers of remunerative blood donation – which has higher chances of infection – are willing to pay for the blood, despite having meagre resources.
In a rural hospital in Chhattisgarh, a 76-year-old was diagnosed with nectrotising fasciitis – a severe bacterial skin infection that spreads to the tissues quickly – on her arm. She had to be operated upon immediately to remove the infected tissues, but her haemoglobin count was just 6.3. During the surgery, the hospital collected blood via unbanked direct blood transfusion. But they were short of one unit.
“I do not know who will donate now...can we buy the blood?,” asked her daughter, who was tending to her.
While admitting that most units of blood are given only after a replacement donation, Dr Singh from the Bilaspur college's blood storage unit said: “We give blood to people who do not have replacements too."
"Usually if someone is an orphan with no family support, or someone comes without attendants, we give the bank without exchange too (referring to replacement donation)," he added.
Dr Singh said he had instituted a rule that no sickle-cell patients should be asked for replacement donors as he found out that the patients' families were bringing in professional donors, especially when the patient needed immediate treatment.
Unbanked blood ethical?
In a scenario where lack of access to blood banks has resulted in deaths that could have been avoided and helped touts flourish, doctors and healthcare activists practicing in rural areas have pushed for unbanked direct blood transfusion to be legalised, even as other activists argue that it shouldn't.
In June, Dr Yogesh Jain and Dr Raman Kataria from Jan Swasthya Sahyog wrotein favour of the practice in Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. They said that unbanked directed blood transfusion, if done by trained and certified healthcare teams, meets ethical standards and helps fulfil emergency blood requirements in rural areas.
In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare met a delegation from the Association of Rural Physicians that sought to legalise this practice. Though the Drug Technical Advisory Board considered the proposal, it was eventually rejected.
The delegation argued that there the Drugs and Cosmetics Act allows unbanked directed blood transfusion for Armed Forces in border areas and peripheral hospitals, which should be extended to the same in emergency situations in rural areas too.
The Drug Technical Advisory Board, however, said that testing of safe blood requires a lot of infrastructure and trained manpower, without which the blood is likely to be infected. Besides, they said, it would be difficult to monitor them. They also said that the exemption given to Armed Forces cannot be given to rural hospitals.
“Are soldiers' life more important than a woman giving birth?" asked Dr Jain. "The implication of this policy is that either people go to the cities for treatment, or choose to die wherever they are. People who have to handle emergencies have to be equipped with technology and regulations should look into the ethical requirement of safe blood.”
An ideal solution, said doctors, would be to increase blood availability in the country by having a central blood bank in each district, with well-equipped storage centres.
However, activists working towards ensuring voluntary blood donation said that unbanked direct blood donation should not be allowed.
“All hell will break loose," said Vinay Shetty, from Think Foundation, Mumbai and a member of Voluntary Blood Donation Committee of Maharashtra State Blood Transfusion Council. "There will be no control over the blood in this country and we will go back in time."
The state has to take responsibility for the shortage of blood and has to ensure that no bank is short of blood, he said.
“The only answer to this is blood sufficiency," said Shetty. "Organising blood is not the responsibility of the patient. It is the responsibility of society at large. This is happening because there is no value to human life. Somebody in the state has to take charge."
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Special Report: Why Chhattisgarh State Ration Shops Are Turning Away People Without 'JDY Bank Account'?
It is usually the poor who do not have bank accounts. So, for a couple of weeks, it was those in the greatest need of subsidised grains who went without them.
Sunday, December 08, 2013
ELECTION ANALYSIS Even as we are mid-way through the election result trends in the four major assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Delhi, the broad trend seems to be thumping wins for the BJP in the first two, a challenging revival of the Congress in Chhattisgarh (though a win can’t be predicted for either party at this time), and a spectacular debut by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, which will probably rob the BJP of a clear majority.
But some broad conclusions can clearly be drawn from these trends – regardless of what the final seat count numbers are in these four states. First, the pollsters appear to have got it more or less right – even in Chhattisgarh and Delhi, where there was a tight race on. Their predictions are well within the margins of error they had predicted.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Varavara Rao, 68, has been a key Naxal ideologue since the 1960s. A diehard believer that armed rebellion will bring ‘liberation’ to India like Mao Tse-tung in Communist China, Rao warns of a Naxal upsurge. Rao had led the Naxals in their disastrous dialogue with the Andhra Pradesh Government in 2004, after which the police had decimated the state’s Naxal leadership. Rao has just published his 50th collection of “anti-imperialist” poetry. HNN met him at his home in Hyderabad when Rao spoke of the Naxals’ latest campaigns.
Excerpts of the interview:
What is your information about the killings of policemen by Naxals in Gadhchiroli district in Maharashtra?
Initially, it was shown as an encounter and it was claimed that the CPI (Maoist) [the Naxals’ party] had suffered heavy losses. But it was revealed later that a landmine had killed 17 policemen and the Naxals hadn’t suffered any losses. Such lies are spoken only to maintain police morale.
The Chhattisgarh Government says the 19 people killed by the Salwa Judum [police-backed anti-Naxal tribal militia] in Dantewada last month were Naxals and not innocent villagers.
That’s a lie. Those killed were innocent adivasis [tribal people]. They belonged to villages that have long resisted government pressure to abandon their villages and move to the Salwa Judum camps. That’s why the Salwa Judum kidnapped and killed them. We expected this after [Chief Minister] Raman Singh claimed his victory in the Chhattisgarh election last year was the people’s approval of the Salwa Judum violence. Of course, now that the Supreme Court has ruled against the Salwa Judum, the state may abandon that and hire one or two thousand from them as regular police and turn it into a paramilitary force like Andhra’s Greyhounds. The BJP is a fascist and a terrorist party and may naturally go this way.
The government says it is the Naxals who have terrorised the people.
False. Why do people support the Naxals if they are terrorised? Most people are kept in Salwa Judum camps by force. Many want to go back to their villages.
Hasn’t Naxalism collapsed in Andhra Pradesh since the police began killing Naxal leaders and squads in 2005?
We suffered heavy losses in the region of Nallamara forests [in south Andhra Pradesh] as it isn’t contiguous with Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. But the Naxal leadership of Telangana [in north Andhra Pradesh] now works from these adjacent states. The Andhra leadership is guiding the Orissa movement also.
Strategically, the picture is not so gloomy. During the Telangana armed struggle of the 1940s, all the leaders were killed in Warangal and Nalgonda districts. But the struggle revived. In Srikakulam district, where the movement was strongest since 1968, the top leaders were wiped out by 1972. The movement was rebuilt during the Emergency [1975- 77]. During 1978-80, every single district secretary of the party was killed in fake encounters. The movement rose again.
Like the Phoenix, we would rise again from the ashes. Even the enemy can’t say the whole thing is over. For 30 years the armed struggle has been on in one place or the other. The people are overwhelmingly with the Naxals because, if nothing else, the movement has brought them selfrespect after decades of bonded labour, torture and destruction. The Naxals don’t accept the lordship of the landlords.
Would you say holding talks with the Andhra Pradesh Government was a bad idea as the Naxals came out and police got wind of their hideouts?
In principle, no, it wasn’t. Karl Marx says you can use any form of struggle. We gained politically from the talks. The middle class is now convinced that if the Naxals take power, they will have a perspective on every aspect, such as democratic rights, land reforms and self-reliance. The greatness of the revolutionary party lies in that it agreed to the talks because the people wanted talks, despite the brutal nine-year rule of Chandrababu Naidu and despite the fact that we had no illusion about the Congress rule since.
The Chhattisgarh Government says Naxal leaders driven from Andhra are creating trouble in Chhattisgarh
Forty percent of the Naxal militia, including the women, in Chhattisgarh is adivasi. The movement has built up in Chhattisgarh since 1980. Its district level leadership comes from within. In Dantewada alone, the Chhatra Natya Manch, the cultural group that supports the movement, has 6,000 members.
Chhattisgarh aims to copy the Andhra ‘model’ of wiping out the Naxals. The Centre and the state are coordinating on this. No Prime Minister ever spoke on the Naxals. But Manmohan Singh has repeatedly said Naxalism is cancerous and a bigger threat than the threat of terrorism. You must see this in the context of the government’s imperialist policies of globalisation. For the first time, trade organisations are talking about the Naxal ‘problem’. The Naxals represent the people’s rights to self-reliance against MNC interests.
All political parties support the MNCs. Manmohan Singh and [Union Home Minister] P Chidambaram are World Bank agents. When the Finance Minister becomes the Home Minister, it only means the Home Ministry serves the interests of industry and finance. You can’t reach anywhere if you view this only from the point of view of violence versus nonviolence. There is mass resistance to the Tatas’ steel project in Chhattisgarh, as is to the Posco steel project in Orissa.
But why oppose industrialisation?
We don’t. Did we close down the public sector? Lakhs lost their jobs with the closure of IDPL and Allwyn. Did we do that?
The Naxals have massed in Orissa. Is that the next battleground then?
The movement is now very strong in Orissa. The government there is creating a Salwa Judum in south Orissa, adjoining north Andhra, and in Mayurbhanj, which adjoins Jharkhand.
What’s the Naxals’ key agenda?
Land to the tiller, workers’ rights over the factory, and political power to the people, flowing from the grassroots. The Maoist theory explains that you first occupy the land of the village; the landlord then sends his mafia; you fight back; then the police come in support of the landlord; you then adopt guerilla methods to fight the police and the state. The economic programme is to occupy the land, the military programme is the guerilla struggle, and the political programme is to bring power to the people by organising gram rajya [village rule] committees. In 1995, the party decided to adopt alternative development programmes for drinking and irrigation water and primary health and education, among others, under the gram rajya committees. The party asked people not to pay taxes to the government and not vote in elections. That’s how it defies the state.
The state claims to work for the same issues of water, health and education.
It only claims to work on these issues, but doesn’t practice what it says. Uneven development is an imperialist characteristic.
Why do the Naxals reject elections?
The 60-year Parliamentary history is a hurdle for the revolution. One has to overcome that to achieve people’s power.
Is Naxalism on an irreversible decline?
The people are looking forward to the Naxals’ comeback. They know it is only a lull. In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote these are the worst days and also the best days. All the political parties, from Narendra Modi to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, are united in their repression of the people. But everyone fighting imperial globalisation — not only the revolutionaries but true patriots, Gandhians, Sarvodaya people, Lohiaites, nationalists, Muslims, minorities, advisasis, dalits and women — have hopes only in the alternative revolutionary movement. They see that only the Naxals can protect our sovereignty, under threat especially from the SEZs.
Why must the revolution kill people?
The movement doesn’t believe in killing. It only believes in resistance. Ours is revolutionary violence as against the violence of the ruling class and the state. All the tools of exercising violence are in the hands of the propertied classes. You get a gun license if you have five acres of land. The whole effort of Marxism is to reinforce people to resist state violence.
Is Gandhian nonviolence irrelevant?
Even Gandhians realise Gandhi is not relevant. [Former Prime Minister] VP Singh once said if he were 20 years old he would join the CPI (Maoist).
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Barely out of the decades old Ulfa terror, Assam is staring at another similar, and potentially bigger, menace: Maoists. While there is no concrete proof yet that the red rebels have entrenched themselves in the state, stray indications point to that fact they could be in the process of doing so. Some recent cases prove that Maoist leaders from Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are trying hard to spread out in the state by recruiting local youth.
Monday, December 09, 2013
Something big has happened this past week. While the focus of most political analysts is on individuals, there is a need to read the bigger message behind the results of the elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The clear winner here is “governance”.
People in Delhi and Rajasthan voted overwhelmingly against the lack of governance and transparency, while those in MP and Chhattisgarh continued their belief in the governance provided by the incumbent governments. Let's look at each state and how governance, or the lack of it, affected voting.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
“This period of peace,” Mahendra Karma had warned, “is dangerous for us.” The founder of the Salwa Judum anti-Maoist militia was shot dead on Saturday night, two years after the Supreme Court disbanded it; he was dragged out of his bullet-proof car as the commandos tasked with protecting him fled.
Former chief minister Vidya Charan Shukla was critically injured in the ambush, which claimed Karma’s life, along with Sukma MLA Kawasai Lakma. Nandkumar Patel, the state’s Congress chief, is missing—feared kidnapped, along with members of his family.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Chhattisgarh's 'Blooming Health Business': Where The Doctors 'Getting Rich' At The Cost Of 'Women Uterus'
In 2014, more than 124,000 women received tubectomies, a sterilisation procedure that accounts for 92% of all family-planning methods, according to the National Health Mission.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Thursday, November 07, 2013
Speaking at locations not far off from Bastar in Chhattisgarh, the current ground zero of Maoist insurgency, Narendra Modi was expected to unveil his vision for the troubled region. He disappointed. He skirted the subject carefully; he neither discussed the reasons behind the problem nor offered solutions.
Maoism found a lateral reference only once in his speech at Jagdalpur, and it had nothing to do with the problem. However, Modi is not to blame for it. A big leader sometimes builds illogical expectations. In the excitement of having him around, everyone forgot that he was here to address an election rally.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
In a written reply to Congress MLA Haridas Bhardwaj, the minister, while providing the crime record status, stated that 70 cases of dacoity and 1,102 cases of murder also were registered. Between Jan 1, 2012, to Jan 31, 2013, there were 1,141 rape cases – the maximum were from Raipur (117), Durg (101), Jashpur (89) and Raigarh (86), he said.
Of the 70 dacoity cases during the period, 11 were registered in Narayanpur district and seven each in Bilaspur and Bijapur districts.
Earlier to this statement, facing flak for the Kanker rape case, Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar has landed himself in a spot by saying that crimes against women were happening as their stars were in adverse positions, a remark termed as childish and vulgar by the state Congress. "We have no answer to this rising spate of crimes against women. Star are not in position," Kanwar told. "Harm can come on a person if the stars are in adverse positions...We have no answer to this, only an astrologer can predict," the state Home Minister said.
Kanwar's remarks on Monday came after opposition Congress in Chhattisgarh demanded dismissal of the BJP government over the issue of the alleged rape on minor inmates of a government-run residential school for tribal girls in Kanker district, which came to light following a complaint on Saturday.
Asked about the Home Minister's remarks, Chief Minister Raman Singh on Tuesday quipped, "Now, what do I say on this." State Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel called Kanwar's comments as childish and vulgar.
A delegation of Congress leaders, led by Patel met Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt and demanded dismissal of the state government, saying it has failed to ensure safety of the girls living in residential schools.
In a memorandum to the Governor, the party said that everybody was shocked by the incident of rape of inmates of Tribal Girls Pre-matric Hostel in Narharpur area of Kanker.
Two persons, including a teacher, have been arrested for allegedly raping minor inmates of the government-run residential school, according to police.
Accused Mannu Ram Gota, 24, a contractual teacher, was arrested on Sunday night from a forest area of Narharpur, Superintendent of Police Rahul Bhagat said, adding that school watchman Deenaram had also been taken into custody in the case for sexually abusing the girls for several months.
Medical examination has confirmed rape of nine out of the 40 students, who are residing at the hostel located in Narharpur police station limits, he said. Medical tests were still underway.
The Chhattisgarh government has ordered a high-level probe into the incident and Director General of Police Ramniwas has deputed IPS officer Neetu Kamal to investigate it. Stringent action will be taken against those who will be found guilty after the probe, the DGP said.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Elections are close at hand but the silence of Maoists is deafening. While the sounds of AK-47s are muffled in naxal-dominated districts all along Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra borders, AP police are worried it’s only a lull before the storm.
“The unusual lull is strange. The Maoists may resort to ambushes and stray attacks to bamboozle the cops and disrupt the poll process,” an apprehensive police officer told TOI. Heavy Maoist presence is evident in 10 to 15 assembly constituencies that share border with Orissa, 20 to 25 constituencies along the Chhattisgarh border and about 40 in Telangana districts that have borders with all the three states.
Top cops said that Maoist action teams could well aim at specific targets this time. Reports indicate that armed militia are already moving in companies (each comprising 90-100 members). Corroborating this, a DIGlevel officer said the elections are the only means to strike terror and make their presence felt. “They may resort to tactical counter offensive by striking where it hurts the most,” an expert said.
Sources said with assembly polls having been over in Chhattisgarh, Maoists would be more than keen to disrupt the AP assembly polls. “We have specific information that the rebels are holding regular meetings in Khammam-Chhattisgarh border areas to foment trouble,” a senior cop said. Sources said local guerrilla squads (LGS) could enter from the Andhra Orissa Board (AOB) and Chhattisgarh and cause widespread destruction. Regrouping of Maoists in north Telangana districts has also not been ruled out. The massing (over 250 armed men) of Maoists in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra is another major concern.
While paramilitary, CRPF, APSP, Greyhounds and local police have been conducting extensive combing in the forest areas to flush out the rebels, field craft operations are being hampered because of the tough AOB terrain. “Coordination with neighbouring states and sharing of information on movement of naxals has been intensified,” a Maoist-hit district SP revealed.
Police are not only keeping track of movement of couriers and Maoist sympathisers in deep forest tracts but they are also binding over tribal youths having links with Maoists.
The most vulnerable districts in AOB are Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Ganjam, Visakha Rural, Srikakulam and Vizianagaram, while the Khammam-Chhattisgarh border is another hot spot. Boycott calls have always been a feature of every election and the naxals coerce people against voting, but this time, the Maoists haven’t spread terror like they did prior to 2004 polls.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Two hours ago, we had landed at the shiny new Raipur airport from Delhi and been whisked away in a Gypsy by the gregarious wildlife enthusiast Zafar Khan, owner of Muba Resorts, our nest for the next two days. It had rained in Raipur earlier that morning, before we arrived, so the breeze was cool, and the sun, muted. Having left behind a drenched, wintry Delhi, we really couldn’t have asked for a more pleasing start to the day. By mid-morning, as hunger pangs began, we had a quick pitstop at Neta Jee Dhaba at Aarang, 45 minutes into our journey, for the most wonderfully crisp and peppery moong dal vada and kadak masala chai. Sure, now we really were all set to explore the wilder side of Chhattisgarh. Another hour or so later, we fell off the highway completely and took the dirt-track into the wilderness, all the way to the edge of the Barnawapara jungle in Barbaspur village, where our hotel for the night, Muba’s Machaan, is located.
We’re in Chhattisgarh at a time when tourists are just about trickling in, still a bit apprehensive as the Naxal unrest continues in certain pockets. The government and private tour operators are obviously keen to highlight the ‘exotica’ of the tribes of Bastar, the waterfalls of Jagdalpur, the palaces of Kawardha and Kanker, and the virgin forests across the state. As Chhattisgarh’s own touristy story unfolds, plenty of new resorts are beginning to show up on the tourist map. But Muba’s Machaan is special. For one, it isn’t ‘eco-friendly’ just in name. Walk up the winding tracks on its premises to your machaan-like cottage, cleverly constructed five metres above ground, and you realise just how well your nest blends in with its wild surroundings. If you’re a creature of the concrete jungle and guilty of taking too many lavish resort vacations, you may take a few minutes to get used to its more modest, but well-designed interiors. Wood rules outside, as it does inside: I note the charming, dimly-lit woven bamboo lamp shades in the spacious room, the wooden flooring, the dark wood-panelled double bed with two single bunkers to boot and even a wooden tissue roll holder in the bathroom! It certainly sets the tone for a real jungle adventure. The best part? Sitting up in bed, you look out of the glass wall to a sprawling, elevated view of the jungle around and beyond, and the nine other machaans peeking out from between the greens. You feel one with the trees; and you’re inclined to wonder—“If it’s this magical now, imagine this in the monsoon!” A delicious, home-style meal later, we set off to explore the wild.
With Zafar Khan at the wheel again, we get a bit of a background about our settings. The sanctuary is in the midst of a churn of sorts, where the villages within the zone are being gradually relocated to allow for a more robust variety of wildlife. A homoeopath by profession, Dr Khan, as we learn on the way, can hold forth equally deftly on djinns and other beastly tales, and he told us many, something I was to regret sorely later that night. Also tucked into the back seat is landscaping consultant Ajit Bharos, who spends all his free time studying and spotting birds. Luckily for us, even before we reach the sanctuary, he points to a range of migratory birds en route: open-billed storks, pretty little purple sunbirds, and a flock of black-spotted doves sunbathing on a bare tree.
By late afternoon, we’re deep into the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary. The sun plays hide and seek, as we circle 80 km of the 245 sq km jungle. Stately-looking bisons appear in herds, juniors in tow, looking at us suspiciously before moving about their business. Our car moves towards a large pond turned green with moss and weeds, and we pause to capture on camera a herd of deer moving gingerly towards the water body to take a few elegant sips, turn away, and disappear back into the forest. As the flurry brown hares hop about, and civet cats make their shadowy company felt, we’re granted a more dramatic presence: the sloth bear. He gives us a long, hard look, up from his elevated quarters, and then, rustling some leaves about, disappears. We have not a moment with the leopard, however, known to be the king of this forest. Do we sense his lithe movements behind a bush, watching as we drive away? Maybe. But it could very well be my imagination, for as evening falls, the tall ant hills begin to resemble humans huddling in a corner, and the silhouettes of the trees fade to black.
When morning breaks, the clouds appear to have retreated, the sunshine strong and stable, perfect for a quick round of birding at a pond a quick drive away. Home to some 200 whistling teals, ducks and cormorants, it makes a pretty picture with the floating rani pink lotuses. Come summer, another wonderful outing in this part of world would be to take a waterfall trek, eight km away. Late morning, after a round of perfectly sumptuous aloo paranthas, I settle into a chair on my machaan’s varandah, book in hand. Another couple of hours doing just that would have been delightful, but it’s time to leave. Twenty km away, on our way back to Raipur, we halt at Sirpur, on the banks of the river Mahanadi, an ancient Buddhist centre dating back to 6th century AD. On a late Saturday afternoon, it’s fascinating to explore the remains of an old civilisation, the old red brick wells, the havan kunds, the ruins of monasteries, all said to have vanished underground after an earthquake. After about a dozen Buddh Vihars were excavated here recently, Sirpur is on its way to becoming a noteworthy heritage site. It certainly proved to be a fitting finale to our trip to Chhattisgarh’s jungles.
Friday, March 14, 2014
The Maoists in Chhattisgarh have added yet another number to their list of killings. This time, the toll is 16. In 2005, they had killed 55 cops in Bijapur, 76 CRPF jawans in 2010 and 30 people including senior Congress leaders of the state on 25 May, 2013.
How many more innocent people and security personnel need to die for the government to wake up from its deep slumber and put an end to the red terror? What is the number that will finally force the government to do something about this?
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
In the winter of 1953, the Fazal Ali Commission was set up to reorganise the States of the Indian Republic. Its recommendation to go about creating States on linguistic lines, indirectly paved the way for the creation of Andhra Pradesh. Andhra was formed from the northern districts of the erstwhile Madras state and the southern districts of the erstwhile Hyderabad state — though the committee itself did not advocate such a merger and was against it.
Fifty-six winters later, the very concept of the creation of States based on linguistic lines has become passé. We need to look for fresh parameters for the creation of States, and that has to be based on holistic development on economic and social lines for better administration and management. This fact has been proven with the creation of Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand from Bihar and Uttaranchal from Uttar Pradesh.
Two issues that seem to be at the centre of the contention between the two regions of Andhra Pradesh is the future of Hyderabad and the repercussions in terms of the sharing of river waters from the completed and planned irrigation projects after the division of the State. Any entity, political or otherwise, that is able to find pragmatic solutions to this conundrum would not only earn the respect of the people of the State but also help set a precedent in the matter of contentious State divisions in the future.
Economics of small States
The case for small States can be argued with two parameters of macroeconomic statistics from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The first parameter is the percentage increase in Gross Domestic Product for States between 1999-2000, when the smaller States were created, and 2007-2008. India’s overall GDP increased by 75 per cent during this time period. During the same period, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal recorded more than 100 per cent, 150 per cent and 180 per cent increase respectively. These rates were much above the rate at which national GDP increased. This clearly indicates that the recent creation of smaller States was a step in the right direction.
Experts have often argued that the creation of smaller States has been at the expense of the States they were created from. For all its lack of governance, Uttar Pradesh grew by more than 21 per cent of the national average during this time period.
The second parameter, the percentage contribution of States to national GDP, helps negate the myth of smaller States growing at the expense of the States they are created from. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh each contributed the same amount to national GDP. While the contributions of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh increased by 0.01 per cent and 0.06 per cent respectively, Uttar Pradesh’s contribution to national GDP increased by 1.2 per cent during the same time period. This is more than Chhattisgarh’s percentage increase in the contribution of 0.64 per cent to national GDP, the highest increase among the three newly created smaller States.
Hyderabad is an integral part of Telangana and a Telangana State without Hyderabad as the capital is inconceivable. However, the militant rhetoric of some political parties has made people of other areas feel unwelcome, creating an air of mistrust among the Telugu-speaking people of various regions. This is not only constitutionally illegal but also extremely foolish as it affects the image of Brand Hyderabad. Everybody who has come to Hyderabad in search of a better quality of life must be protected. Rhetorical slogans such as Telangana waalon jaago, Andhra waalon bhago gives the impression of an exclusionist movement that forces people of the non-Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh out of Hyderabad rather than a movement where the people of Telangana want greater autonomy for their region.
Significantly, when Maharashtra and Gujarat were created from the then Bombay state on the recommendation of the States Reorganisation Commission, there was fear about Mumbai losing its importance as a financial nerve-centre as a lot of investment in Mumbai had been made by Gujarati business people. The creation of two separate States did not halt Mumbai’s rapid development. In fact, it additionally paved the way for the development of Ahmedabad and Surat as alternative financial centres. Hyderabad can emulate the same model. As in the past 400 years, the city can continue to welcome people with open arms rather than close its gates to fresh talent and creative ideas.
The people of the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions feel that the benefits reaped from Hyderabad must be accessible to all those who have been equal stakeholders in the city’s development. The solution to this is not alternative models such as according Hyderabad the status of a Union Territory or making Hyderabad a joint capital for the States carved out of present-day Andhra Pradesh. These solutions are just not practical. A better approach would be to plan a special financial package for the development of a new State capital for the non-Telangana region. Pragmatism would dictate that the special package be funded through some form of cess on the city of Hyderabad for a limited period rather than running to large financial institutions for loans, as has been proposed by some political entities.
Social dynamics of water
About 70 per cent of the catchment area of the Krishna and close to 80 per cent of the catchment area of the Godavari is located in the Telangana region. Across the world, water distribution and sharing schemes between two areas is calculated on the basis of the percentage of the catchment area that lies in the region. Other factors that influence water-sharing accords is the population of a given region, the projected usage of water for industry and the domestic population, and the physical contours of the region through which the river flows.
Take the instance of the Godavari, where the areas planned for large dams in the Telangana have not been found feasible for various reasons. As the Sriramsagar project on the Godavari already exists, it is not feasible to build another large dam on the Godavari until after the Pranahitha tributary joins the Godavari. There is not enough water to be harnessed on a continuous basis for the project to be economically feasible if the dam is built before the Pranahitha joins the main river. The Inchampally project, a national project whose benefits are to be shared between the States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, was one such large project that was proposed. Though the project was conceived a long time ago, it has run into typical issues that are usually associated with projects that have multiple States as stakeholders.
Though Andhra Pradesh, by large, is the main beneficiary of the project, the project plan estimates more forest land being submerged in Maharashtra (47.7 per cent) than in Andhra Pradesh (29.9 per cent; all land in Telangana). An equal amount of cultivable land will be submerged in Chhattisgarh (41.8 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (42.2 per cent; all land in Telangana). And, more villages that belong to Maharashtra (100) will be submerged as compared to Andhra Pradesh (65). This has obviously made the other States reluctant to move as quickly as Andhra Pradesh on this project.
The link canal that has been planned between Inchampally and Nagarjuna Sagar that is proposed to irrigate the regions of Telangana in between also involves prohibitive costs as a result of the 107-metre lift that is required for the water to reach the Nagarjuna Sagar. The lift itself will require a separate hydro-electric power project for the project to be feasible. Commonsense and pragmatism would have ensured that a project in Kanthamapalli or Kaleswaram be pursued. Additionally, three smaller step- dams between Yellampalli and Sriramsagar must be devised with a realistic State-level river-interlinking plan. Inchampally is not an exception, but the trend in how political leaders across the aisle in Telangana have been caught up in the big-projects-to-line-my-pockets mentality at the cost of the development of the region by looking at smaller, realistic projects to execute.
The Telangana agitation is the only such movement in India that involves a capital city located in the region that is fighting for separation from the main State. This clearly reflects on the lack of governance and civic administration in this area as the benefits of having a State capital in the hinterland have not trickled down to other areas in that region.
Smaller States still need a good and vibrant administration to be recipes for success. Chhattisgarh is a fine example of how an effective administration could turn around a State in all aspects of development. The development that has happened in the Chhattisgarh region from Independence till 2000 has in fact been less than the development that has taken place from the time a new State was created in 2000 till now. The first Telangana Chief Minister would have done a great service to the infant State should he take a prescription from Chhattisgarh’s most famous Ayurvedic doctor.
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
In the latest ambush in the forest of Elamgunda in the Chintagufa area in Sukma district (South Bastar), more than 400 kms from the state capital Raipur, as many as 14 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, including two key officials - deputy commandant DC Verma and assistant commandant Rajeev Kapuria – have been killed. How many more jawans will have to die before the government realises that its efforts don’t measure up to the challenge posed by the Maoists?
Monday, August 19, 2013
Delhi and NCR on watch after major outbreak in Chhattisgarh and Bihar known as bird flu, in Chhattisgarh and Bihar. The central government has informed all states, including Delhi, to conduct regular surveillance of poultry farms after outbreaks of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, in Chhattisgarh and Bihar.
Considering the outbreak of the avian influenza H5N1 virus in the two states, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries has recently informed the National Disaster Management Authority ( NDMA), Union health ministry, Union home ministry and all the states to carry out regular checks to enable early detection of any possible spread of the virus.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Book Excerpt: After Being Jailed, The Nightmare For Chhatisgarh's Dr.Binayak Sen’s Most Disturbed Family
On December 24, 2010, Binayak Sen, the Chhattisgarh-based doctor, public health specialist and activist, was convicted of sedition by a Raipur Sessions Court and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court granted him bail on April 15, 2011, and his appeal against his conviction is still pending. His wife and fellow-activist Ilina Sen recounts the early days of the nightmare.