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Sex Scandal Case Rocks Odisha Assembly, Chief Minister Patnaik Maintains Stoic Silence

When Odisha’s high profile film producer Akshay Parija played the victim card in the sensational honey trap scandal, filing a police complaint for extortion, he possibly had no idea how his action would implicate BJD and embarrass Naveen Patnaik’s government. Odisha Assembly is now rocking with BJP and Congress questioning BJD’s hand in this sex scandal racket. BJP says Patnaik’s government is trying to protect the culprits as a cover up since his own party members were involved. Congress legislature party leader Narasingha Mishra is now demanding Naveen babu’s resignation on the controversial honey-trap issue implicating senior BJD members in the sex racket. Clearly, BJD is in a tight spot because ED is now looking into the money laundering aspect of blackmailing by Archana Nag and her husband Jagabandhu Chand which has the possibility to expose influential BJD politicians of their intimate moments. Naveen’s stoic silence on controversial issues involving BJD politicians is sending a signal that Naveen is too embarrassed to admit follies. The opposition is also saying that ED’s powerful noose on BJD’s misdeeds is already evident, wherein, the Commissionerate Of Police had let off suspects but ED reversed CoP’s earlier decision and arrested the suspects. Again, BJD’s Dhenkanal MLA Sudhir Samal’s brother Gangadhar, who owns a car showroom, deposed before the ED recently. He was grilled for suspicious financial transactions worth around Rs 35 lakh with accused Archana. As of now Patnaik’s BJD is on the backfoot.

Odisha’s Gopalpur Locals Oppose Smartchem's Ammonium Nitrate Plant On Environment Concerns

The familiar battle ground again haunts Odisha just like successful opposition to the National Test Range at Baliapal in 1980’s. The villagers at Gopalpur and its neighbouring six panchayats fearing impact of pollution have collectively decided not to allow Smartchem Technologies Ltd to set up a 377 KTPA ammonium nitrate plant at Tata Steel Industrial Park. Smartchem Technologies is a 100% subsidiary of Deepak Fertilisers & Petrochemicals. The villagers are asking what guarantee the company can give to assure that there will be no accidents at SEZ Gopalpur. There are examples galore worldwide of explosions because of poor storage and handling of ammonium nitrate. According to locals, the company has done very little to educate the local people about the robustness of their hazard handling process and thereby allay their fears. Though the government promoting chemicals is part of industrial development strategy, villagers are determined not to allow hazardous chemicals in their area and are asking to replace it with environmentally-friendly industries instead. With assembly elections due in 2024 the Odisha government headed by Naveen Patnaik may not want to take a chance and is trying to find the middle path in the best interest of all stakeholders. Surely, for Petrochem major Deepak Fertiliser which was ready to invest Rs 2200 crore via its subsidiary this is a temporary setback.

Can BJD Put Dhamnagar Defeat Behind To Win Padampur By-Election?

The mood at BJP Odisha HQ is upbeat after winning the recently held Dhamnagar by-election. The party is hoping to repeat the feat in the Padampur by-election to be held on December 5. Smarting under the defeat Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal is also taking no chances. It plans to replicate BJP’s sympathy wave strategy in Padampur with the hope of securing women and youth votes. BJD is fielding 29-year old highly qualified Barsha Singh Bariha, elder daughter of the late BJD MLA Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha. Besides, to woo voters BJD has promised to accord district status to Padampur by carving it out of Bargarh district. The BJD government has already announced a slew of projects worth Rs 488 crore for Padampur before election dates were announced which shows its thorough preparedness. It has also inducted politician Raju Ghibela into its fold as he had earlier polled 2% of total vote in the last election as an Independent candidate. If Barsha wins, BJD will make history. This is because Padampur has a history of not voting the same party for two successive terms. BJD had won Padampur seat in 2000, 2009 and 2019 while BJP’s Pradip Purohit lost by a margin of 5,734 votes last time, while Congress finished third. Looks like BJD is determined to rewrite history at Padampur. All eyes on December 8 results.
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BJP Halts BJD’s Winning Spree In Odisha, Wrest Prestigious Dhamnagar Seat From BJD

In Odisha BJP finally managed to check BJD’s by-poll winning spree since 2019 by winning the prestigious Dhamnagar by-election. It won by a margin of 9,881 votes. Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik said he was not surprised by BJD’s loss. “I always respect the verdict of the people. We expected that BJP would win this by-election” said Patnaik. Why did BJD fail in Dhamnagar by-election when it was predicted to win by a margin of 30,000 votes? Analysts say, one, BJD’s strategy of playing women empowerment card, by fielding Abanti Das failed to counter BJP’s sympathy waves. BJP’s Suryabanshi managed to retain his father’s seat, though more women exercised their franchise this time. Two, possibly BJD’s women card failed to make an impact due to low voter turnout. Three, for BJD it was a self-goal, as it first promised former MLA Rajendra Das of a ticket then changed it at the last moment by nominating a new comer Abanti Das. This created internal dissension and mistrust. BJD also failed to prevail upon Rajendra Das to withdraw from the election race as an Independent. He polled 8,153 votes denting BJD’s vote share and finally making BJP win. Dhamnagar election debacle is a wakeup call for Naveen babu whether he should pursue experiments with women empowerment or rely on the tried and tested politicians to win the election race.
rishi sand

Odisha Sand Artist Pattnaik Faces Flak For His Rishi Sunak Portrait Resembling Tony Blair

Odisha-based internationally acclaimed sand artist and Padma Shri Awardee Sudarsan Pattnaik seems to be grabbing headlines in the UK for all the wrong reasons. Pattnaik like most Indians was excited with the Indian origin Rishi Sunkak becoming the Prime Minister of UK. So, in his own inimitable style he paid tribute to Sunak by creating a sand portrait of Rishi Sunak on the Puri beach. This creation came in for heavy criticism from the British media which stated that the renowned sand artist Pattnaik has gone wrong in depicting Rishi Sunak; he looked very much like the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Sudarsan is indeed apologetic. He told The Independent, UK which he has uploaded on his Twitter handle “My only intention was to draw Mr Sunak to congratulate him. It was a proud moment for me to witness the historic moment of an Indian origin man becoming prime minister of the UK like many Indians.”  Also, what propelled Pattnaik to draw Sunak was his personal connection with Sunak’s mother-in-law Sudha Murthy who had encouraged him in his initial years. Sudarsan laments the fact that his good intention has created unnecessary controversy but he will make up for it by creating another one, and make it look more accurate.
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Naveen Patnaik Banks On Women’s Group To Wrest Dhamnagar Seat From BJP

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) finally named Abanti Das to contest the Dhamnagar by-election to be held on November 3. Abanti Das, Mission Shakti specialist, is very actively involved with women Self Help Groups around Odisha. Political analysts say once again chief minister Naveen Patnaik has played his card well by focussing on women voters to win the prestigious seat left vacant with the untimely death of BJP MLA Bishnu Charan Sethi. BJD is positive of Abanti Das because she is a fresh face and that fits into BJD’s strategy of giving breaks to newcomers. Also, BJD did not want to repeat the mistake of fielding a candidate which would trigger internal fights and give advantage to BJP like it did in 2019. This explains why BJD did not opt for its former two MLA’s Rajendra Kumar Das and Muktakanta Mandal as they are constantly at loggerheads. But, Patnaik’s move has not gone well with the former BJD MLA Rajendra Das. He has defied BJD supremo by filing nomination as an independent candidate. Abanti Das is the chairperson of Tihidi block at Bhadrakh who has vast experience in Mission Shakti. BJD is counting on her vote mobilisation networking abilities to win the by-poll election. BJD sources say “winning this time is expected, since BJD has won all the by-polls conducted since 2019”.
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Patnaik Takes Wind Out Of The Opposition Sail By Launching Mission Millet

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik is forever thinking of newer and newer ways to connect with his voters as he is keen to transform their lives. The latest programme unveiled by him is Odisha Millet Mission that will touch the lives of 95-lakh plus tribals in the state. Of course, these tribals will play a big role in the 2024 Assembly elections. Many in the opposition grudgingly admit that Mission Millet is a game changer.  Realizing its potential — nutritional advantage and as political currency — the Odisha government has already declared November 10 as Mandia Dibas. Political observers say, it is Patnaik’s masterstroke by focussing on a single big constituency comprising tribals it will yield big dividends.  Now, the state government is going all out to promote millet cultivation in a big way in both the tribal and non-tribal districts. It is learnt that the state government now plans to extend millet coverage to 142 blocks in 19 districts. Naveen babu who believes in his work speaking for him has constantly advised his ministers and party workers to “talk less, let the work speak for itself”. Looks like his mantra is working as the Odisha people are quite favourably listening to millet’s wellness advantage. So as of now it is Advantage BJD.
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Archana Nag and Jagabandhu Chand

Sex Scandal Cutting Across Parties Rocks Odisha

The casting couch allegations made against Odisha’s NRI film producer Akshay Parija by an aspiring 23 year old actress has now turned into a nightmare for high profile politicians, businessmen and celebrities. Akshay Parija filed a retaliatory police complaint accusing the 27-year old Archana Nag as the mastermind stating he was “honey trapped”. When the police raided Archana’s luxury apartment in the heart of Bhubaneshwar from where she and her husband Jagabandhu Chand  ran a high profile prostitution racket, they stumbled upon photos of top BJD, BJP and Congress leaders in compromising position. The sex racket has opened a Pandora’s box. Congress leader Suresh Rautray has urged the chief minister to take stringent action against Archana and her husband for blackmailing and extorting money from several prominent personalities including political biggies of Odisha. Police have stumbled upon as many as 64 photos of influential people from Archana’s laptop and this includes two from erstwhile royal families, who are veteran political leaders. Nag who had hired around 20 high-profile sex workers instructed them to always click photographs of prominent personalities in compromising position. Archana has been arrested while her husband is absconding.  “I do not know when, how and who clicked my photo, ” said Law Minister Jagannath Saraka. Similarly, BJP Lok Sabha MP Jual Oram dismissed his link with Archana saying “I do not know the women. As politicians we meet many people where they click selfies and photos. She might have clicked a photo at a public event.”

Can BJD Wrest Odisha’s Prestigious Dhamnagar Assembly Seat From BJP?

Ahead of 2024 election preparation, BJD and BJP in Odisha are all set for high voltage by-election drama to contest Dhamnagar assembly seat on November 3.This decision was necessitated after the recent death of two-time sitting BJP MLA Bishnu Charan Sethi. This win or loss at Dhamnagar by election which as of today is BJP’s citadel, will set the pace for 2024 Lok Sabha elections. BJP is likely to field a member of the Sethi family as it is hopeful that voters will give BJP another chance to fulfill the unfinished task of Sethi who was known as a prolific writer, poet and thinker. However this time, the task for BJP is cut out, given that in 2019 election, BJP’s Sethi had won by thin margin 48% visa-vis BJD 45% votes, while Congress garnered only 4% votes. Interestingly, if one looks at by-election results held in Bijepur, Tirtol, Pipili, Brajrajnagar, Balasore Sadar between between 2019 and 2020 then all seats have been won by the ruling Biju Janata Dal. Leader of opposition Jaya Narayan Mishra representing BJP is hopeful that Sethi’s good reputation will ensure victory at Dhamnagar by-election and BJP will treat this as a practice match ahead of the final match in 2024.
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The Champions of 1975 World Cup Winning Indian Hockey Team on the iconic Kalinga turf

Why Odisha Govt Is Betting Big Time On Indian Hockey Team

Ahead of the 15th edition of the Men’s FIH Hockey World Cup to be played in Odisha from 13 to 29 January 2023, the newly elected Hockey India President, Dilip Tirkey who was India’s erstwhile hockey captain, seems confident of Odisha’s preparedness.  According to Tirkey “Within three months India will be able to correct its identified weaknesses “. Tirkey is also bullish about India improving its competitive positioning during the tournament.  This observation comes from the fact that the Odisha government headed by Naveen Patnaik is obsessed and committed to restore back India’s lost pride of place. India has had no win since 1975 and Patnaik is keen that India reclaim its lost position. This is why his government has invested heavily in creating the world class infrastructure for nursing hockey players and eventually bagging the world cup right to host it in Odisha. Odisha is building India’s largest hockey stadium with 20,000-spectator capacity in Rourkela. According to Tirkey, proven coach and high-performance directors like John David, Edgar Maskar and BJ Kariappa have been roped in to spruce up training and fitness level of players. These three eminent hockey personalities are expected to play a major role in developing the hockey programme of Odisha state making it not just as the primary sponsor of world cup but a major nursery for grooming hockey talents in the country so as to win the World Cup.

Union Minister Vaishnaw Puts Odisha's Fears On 5G At Rest

The Odisha government felt slighted recently when the Union Telecom Ministry did not include Odisha cities with regard to the pilot run of 5G services to be initiated in 2022. These cities, restricted to 13, were chosen on the basis of their economic returns for the telecom operators and on this criteria the entire state of Odisha was left out.  Miffed, several opposition political parties wrote to Union Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw over disparity in selection criteria. Vaishnaw, a seasoned bureaucrat turned BJP politician knows that he owes his present position to chief minister Naveen Patnaik who endorsed his candidature to Rajya Sabha on a BJP ticket three years ago. Given his earlier connection with Odisha as an IAS officer, he did not want to be seen as serving narrow political ends with regard to the 5G roll out plan nor create a proverbial storm in a tea cup of ministerial high handedness. This explains why Vaishnaw clarified that Odisha will be included in the 5G first phase launch. His decision to include Odisha in 5G expansion was greeted with jubilation not merely by the Odisha government and people as well.
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Controversial Odiya Star Prakruti Mishra Moves To Mumbai, All Set To Enter Bigg Boss House

If you are controversial, care a damn about public opinion, love having no rules, fond of dramatic fights and outbursts, and a national film award winner, then you certainly qualify to be a Bigg Boss contestant. So it is with Odisha’s controversial film star Prakruti Misra who is all set to enter Bigg Boss-Season 16 which premieres on October 1. So what brings her to Mumbai?  According to Bhubaneshwar film industry gossip Prakruti, who won national award for her Odiya film Arsi, had little choice but to look for greener pastures in Mumbai so as to keep herself away from the recent raging controversy involving her co- star.  It may be recalled that Prakruti was publicly shamed and hit by well-known film actor Babushaan’s wife Trupti Satpathy for allegedly having an affair with her husband. The video of that incident went viral on social media. To redeem her image Prakruti filed a Rs 5-crore defamation suit against Babushaan’s wife Trupti and her father. Besides, Big Boss 16, it is learnt that she will be working on three Bollywood projects, one of which stars Nana Patekar and one Odiya film Draupadi.
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Patnaik Goes All Out To Promote Buddhist Tourism Using State Funds As Centre Not Providing Any

The astute chief minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik is leaving no stones unturned to transform the state.  So be it the economy, sports, culture or religion all areas and sectors are given equal importance. His latest focus is promoting Buddhist Tourism so as to attract both domestic and foreign tourists to Odisha. This drive will boost local employment and support stone artisans famous for carving Buddha murals.  Come October 28, Odisha will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Dhauli Shanti Stupa also known as Peace Pagoda located in outskirts Bhubaneswar. It is estimated that 150 monks from different parts of the world would join the celebration. The Dhauli Buddhist Stupa built in 1972 was a collaborative effort between Japan Buddha Sangha and Kalinga Buddha Sangha. But, why is the Odisha government going all out to promote Buddhist Tourism? Reportedly, Patnaik is upset that Odisha despite having a rich heritage of Buddhism dating from 6th century to 16th century, spread over 200 sites across the state, was not included as a Buddhist Circuit Project funded by the Union Government. Instead it gave preference to other neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh. Instead of whining Patnaik thought it prudent to build up Buddhist  circuit tourism through state funds. It is understood that the Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan who hails from Odisha has urged the Union Culture Minister to include Odisha in the Buddhist circuit list. Now one has to wait and watch.

Now A New Twist, Return Kohinoor To Lord Jagannath Demands Odisha Group

With Queen Elizabeth II passing away, the world’s largest cut diamond Kohinoor, and the controversies surrounding it, is once again making news. It began with a group in Odisha tweeting that Kohinoor be returned to India. Kohinoor is one of the largest cut diamonds in the world, weighing 105.6 carats. It is part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. This demand gathered steam with Odisha’s Shree Jagannath Sena submitting a memorandum to the President Droupadi Murmu seeking her intervention to bring back the controversial prized jewel to Odisha and be placed as the crown of Lord Jagannath. Why Lord Jagannath? In their book, Kohinoor: The Story Of The World’s Most Infamous Diamond written by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, the authors say that Maharaja Ranjeet Singh of Punjab had indeed willed to donate his Kohinoor crown to Lord Jagannath in consequence of his prayers amidst failing eyesight much before his death in 1839. But the British under Lord Dalhousie following Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s demise annexed Punjab and shipped the diamond crown to Queen Victoria in 1849. Kohinoor seems like an intellectual, inconclusive, nationalism debate at best.  But the BJP government back in 2014 had buried the Kohinoor controversy to a close saying Kohinoor was gifted to the British crown by Maharaja Duleep Singh.
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Lifetime Achievement Award To Odisha Chief Minister Burns Up BJP, Congress

Looks like both BJP and Congress have not been able to stomach this achievement of the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. On September 4, Patnaik was conferred the Lifetime Achievement award by the Delhi-based Capital Foundation in recognition of his distinctive and outstanding leadership. The award was presented by former Chief Justice of India NV Ramana in New Delhi.  On his return, a crowd of 50,000 people thronged at Bhubaneswar airport to receive Patnaik and accompany him all the way to his residence, blowing conch shells, choking the lanes and bylanes. So instead of congratulating him both the parties started firing salvos using social media platforms. BJP called upon the Odisha Governor Prof Ganesh Lal to highlight the state’s law and order problems. BJP said “Women and children are not safe in Odisha.” Odisha Congress said “The award is an ordinary one. CM Naveen is doing a drama. People in 2024 will give a befitting reply.”  Reacting to BJP and Congress outbursts, BJD MP Sasmit Patra said “I will not politicise the matter. This award has been rightfully won by CM Naveen Patnaik giving the state 25 years of hard work”. Odisha State Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Pramilla Mallick dismissed it as “BJP’s stunt. They are just trying to prove their presence by doing such politics”.
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Is BJP Daydreaming Of Forming Govt In Odisha?

An eternal optimist, BJP never gives up. Odisha is the state they have been trying to make inroads for quite some time now. But to no avail because of Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik’s strong performance. Recently, the home minister Amit Shah visited Odisha and proclaimed to win 2024 Assembly elections in Odisha even though BJP has been decimated continuously by BJD in panchayat, corporations and assembly elections. But, they don’t give up. They keep rejigging their strategy in the hope it will rule Odisha one day. Recently, BJP recast its party leadership by appointing Sunil Bansal as its key election strategist for Odisha hoping he would replicate UP magic. It also appointed controversial firebrand BJP MLA Jayanarayan Mishra as leader of opposition (LoP) in the Assembly. Jayanarayan considers himself as BJP’s “hanuman” who is determined to lead BJP into power by exposing BJD’s misdeeds. When asked how they were hoping to defeat the BJD supremo who won election five times, a confident four-time MLA Jayanarayan says “Naveen’s style is bound to fail someday.” Political observers say, BJP is daydreaming to form the government in Odisha in 2024 given the fact Naveen babu has proved his mettle of having transformed the state and personally he is not corrupt. So why would people of Odisha vote against him? Makes sense!
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Odisha Film Industry Hit By Another High Profile Marital Controversy, Second Incident In A Month

In less than a month, the Odisha film industry has been rocked by another high-profile marital controversy. This time it is the popular actor Babushaan, son of Odia superstar Uttam Mohanty and actress Aparijita Mohanty. He was in the news because of an unsavoury incident involving his wife Trupti Satpathy. Trupti stopped his co-star Prakruti Mishra from boarding an auto-rickshaw while accusing her of having a relationship with him and ruining their family. Actress Prakruti Mishra hit back saying that Trupti has lost her mental balance. But, this street fight — screaming and allegations – has gone viral.  In a damage control exercise, Babushaan who realised his mistake, in a video message, said that he will no longer work with his co-actress Prakruti. But there is no smoke without fire as Babushaan’s mother Aparijita said “Bad company ruined her son’s life” and asked people of Odisha to bless her son Babushaan so that he returns to his family. Legal cases have been filed by both sides. It is learnt that actress Prakruti has reportedly filed a defamation suit against Babushaan and his wife Trupti and sought a damage of Rs 5 crore. Earlier, we saw how Odia actor Anubhav Mohanty and his actress wife Varsha Priyadarshini made headlines when their marital discord became ugly. Looks like there is a thin dividing line between real and reel world.

Odisha Government Pulls Out All The Stops To Host Men’s World Hockey Cup In Jan 2023

Come January 2023 the entire world’s gaze will be on Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. Reason: The Odisha Government will be hosting the Men’s Hockey World Cup tournament. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has already unveiled the official logo for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023. FIH and CoA members have planned to visit Rourkela on September 7 which will be followed by the official draw for the tournament on September 8. Both the Odisha Government and FIH members confirmed that Odisha is well prepared to host the upcoming Men’s Hockey World Cup tournament in January 2023.The international hockey matches will be spread between Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga Stadium and Rourkela’s Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium which is nearing completion. Both cities will be beautified to welcome national and international players and visitors. The new Astro Turf stadium at Rourkela with a seating capacity of 20,000 and allied facilities is set to become the benchmark for global standard. Chief Secretary Suresh Mohapatra said, “We are eagerly looking forward to welcoming the top teams of the world.” VK Pandian, 5T Secretary said the Chief Minister has directed the state government  to use this forthcoming World Cup as an opportunity to showcase not only Odisha’s capability as a remarkable host but also promote the art, culture and heritage of the state”. Incidentally, the 5T governance model adopted by the Patnaik government stands for transparency, teamwork, technology and timeliness — leading to transformation.

Odisha’s Chief Secretary Suresh Mohapatra Likely To Get Second Service Extension

Post his six-month extension, Chief Secretary of the Odisha government Suresh Chandra Mohapatra is due to retire at the end of August 2022. Sources say he may get another service extension. Retaining Mohapatra is a distinct possibility because the Odisha government could not finalise candidates for the top job, though several names were doing rounds including that of Pradeep Kumar Jena, Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Sources say the Odisha government has sent a request letter to the Department of Personnel and Training seeking extension of services of Mohapatra, a 1986 batch IAS Officer. In all probability the Centre would accede to Odisha Government’s request. It is not unusual for capable IAS officers to get a couple of service extensions and there has been past precedence. For instance, RN Das who was Chief Secretary of Odisha between 1992 and 1995 got 3 extensions of six months each when Biju Patnaik was the Chief Minister.  Mohapatra, one of the three candidates whose names was short-listed to be appointed as the Chairman of OERC, may be out of the fray, once he gets another six months extension. This means the Odisha government will have to decide between the other two short-listed candidates, Arun Panda (retired former secretary in the Ministry of MSME) and Union Territory cadre retired IAS officer Manoj Parida.
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Odia Actor Turned Politician In The Dock As Marital Discord Turns Ugly, Dropped As BJD Spokesperson

The Odia actor Anubhav Mohanty who defeated BJP’s Baijayant (Jay) Panda in 2019 Lok Sabha polls standing on a BJD ticket now finds himself in the dock. Reason: marital discord. His wife Varsha Priyadarshini is also an Odia actress. It has turned ugly with both sides trading charges. Anubhav’s petition for divorce is in the Odisha High Court. The mutual allegations are endless which includes domestic violence and harassment justifying police complaint filing by Priyadarshini. Reportedly, BJD MP Mohanty to defend himself has opted to explain  his troubled relationship through a video broadcast to the netizens as to why he is seeking divorce from his wife alleging denial of conjugal rights while Varsha alleging Anubhav’s extra marital affairs as a reason for the discord. So far, BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik has maintained his usual stoic silence. But in a parallel development, Patnaik thought it prudent to reconstitute the list of BJD spokespersons in the process has dropped Anubhav Mohanty amongst others as national spokesperson. Besides, he has also not been included in Naveen’s apex state executive panel for decision making. Action speaks louder than the word, hope Mohanty sees the writing on the wall.
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Why Is CBI Investigating Odisha’s High Profile Businessman Mahimananda Mishra?

Mahimananda Mishra, one of the richest businessmen of Odisha with an estimated net worth of Rs 10,000 crore seems to be in trouble with the CBI on his tail. Mishra, who runs Orissa Stevedores is being investigated for questionable business practices that includes corruption and bribing officials at Paradip port. Four decades old Orissa Stevedores is the flagship company of the OSL Group which has presence in shipping, mining, logistics, and exports. The allegations against Mishra, who has been arrested in the past, ranges from bribery, corruption, ducking court summons. But what is worrying Mahima is that CBI after raiding his office and residence also raided the residences of his two sons Chandan and Charchit but took into custody only Charchit. So what led to Mishra’s downfall? He is known for making a killing by providing labour for loading and unloading cargo at the Paradip port by questionable methods. His company held sway at Paradip port and nobody dared challenge him. Little wonder he is known as Odisha’s stevedore king. His meteoric rise saw him being conferred business leader award 12 years ago by the Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik. But, nobody reckoned Mishra’s reputation will hit rock bottom.  “With CBI investigating  Mahima’s ways of doing business in Odisha, is bound to improve accountability, plug loopholes and bring in transformational changes in the state so as to ensure such incidents do not recur,” says a confident retired  bureaucrat.
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Can BJP ‘Really’ Make Inroads Into Naveen Patnaik’s Odisha?

With Amit Shah exuding confidence in his recent trip to Odisha saying BJP will form the government in the state in 2024, questions are being raised if Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik is beatable by BJP in 2024? Political watchers dismiss Shah’s bravado saying “not possible during Naveen’s lifetime”. It’s difficult to defeat a leader like a performing chief minister like Naveen babu in 2024. He has never tasted defeat, as yet. Does BJP have one leader in the state who can match Patnaik’s stature? It is common knowledge that “Modi-Shah juggernaut isn’t all powerful enough to steamroll Patnaik’s huge popularity. This has been amply demonstrated by BJD in the panchayat and urban elections vis-a-vis BJP’s total washout in both instances. Here is the contradiction, while Modi-Patnaik politically are fighting each other at personal level they share a great equation.  Given this scenario, Amit Shah has to tread carefully to ensure BJP leaders don’t attack Patnaik personally and at the same give cadres enough ammo that keeps them charged and hopeful that BJP will be in the saddle one day.  For starters, the party has elevated Sunil Bansal to the National General Secretary position, in-charge of Odisha. He has been asked to replicate BJP’s UP victory in Odisha. Clearly, for BJP their task is cut out, to make a dent against a tall leader like Naveen babu whose popularity continues to be on the rise.
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Will Odisha Govt’s Second Attempt To Push Local Air Travel Via India One Air Take Off?

There is good news both for the Government of India UDAN scheme and Government of Odisha’s sustained effort to link its inaccessible airports.  With a view to boost inter-state and intra-state travel the Naveen Patnaik’s administration is making air travel affordable for both the government officers and local citizens. Towards this flight tickets on 9-seater UDAN flights are capped at Rs 2500 per ticket for 500-600 km travel. This pricing will bring in a multiplier effect, boost tourism, regional growth vis a vis Odisha economy. The UDAN maiden flight Bhubaneswar-Jeypur-Vizag is expected to take off any time soon. The Odisha government has roped in the Ahmedabad-based regional airline India One Air. This company has already secured an operating licence to fly the Odisha sector from DGCA.  According to Prasanna Pradhan, Bhubaneswar Airport Director this initiative will meet with success as most seats will be filled by the state government officials. Once the subsidized air travel takes off, UDAN flight capacity will be increased to 18-seater. This new initiative comes against the backdrop of Odisha government’s failed efforts a few years back. By definition the airline industry’s success depends on several factors, the most important being ATF pricing, occupancy ratio and punctuality. What will work this time will be the viability gap funding; 80% will be shared by the Aviation Ministry and 20% by the state government. Besides, GST will not be levied in certain sectors.

Naveen Patnaik Once Again Pushes Modi Govt To Accord Special Status To Odisha

When Suman Bery, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog called upon Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik he was not really surprised when Patnaik reminded him of Odisha’s long standing demand of being accorded a special category status. But, what was unique this time was Patnaik’s tone — it was non-pleading. Naveen babu believes it is Odisha’s right to be given special category status as the state has been devastated by repeated cyclones.  Ever since Biju Janata Dal split from BJP in 2009 Patnaik has been the lone crusader fighting for the special status without any success. What is new this time is Naveen’s request to the Centre for expanding railway infrastructure, extending banking facilities to rural pockets and providing telecommunication services in the remotest part of the state. Naveen knows that Odisha cannot qualify for a special category status which is presently restricted to North Eastern three hilly states by the Finance Commission. The message CM is trying to drive is asking the Centre to revisit/redefine special status criteria, so that less developed criteria suiting Odisha should be given special dispensation or the centre provides monetary equivalent of a special category status. Political observers say Patnaik has consistently supported Modi in all issues, and it is in Modi’s interest to reciprocate lest Patnaik joins chorus with the Opposition parties.

The 163-km Sambalpur-Rourkela highway

A Major Embarrassment For Odisha CM, Engineering Giant L&T Seizes Govt’s Property Over Non-Payment Of Dues

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has time and again affirmed his commitment to improve ease of doing business in the state. But, a recent expose in the Assembly by the Opposition parties, BJP and Congress proved to be otherwise; it was a major embarrassment for his government. Apparently, engineering giant L&T was forced to seize government property for non-payment of their dues towards building a 163-km road between Sambalpur–Rourkela at a cost of Rs 1200 crore. Reason: the state government did not see the urgency to settle the full payment to L&T, despite High Court and Supreme Court’s rulings in favour of L&T. Instead, it filed a review petition in the Supreme Court. The opposition alleged that the state government did not give importance and urgency to settle L&T’s dues. They pointed out that a Rs 20 crore outstanding to L&T was allowed to bloat up to Rs 120 crore which included interest component. A well-known Odisha-based businessman pointed out that the problems faced by private sector companies are payment delays, disputes in payments as a result of which the company loses time and money. With issues being highlighted in the Assembly will the Patnaik government fix these kinds of problems and send a positive signal to the industry?

BJP Has A Field Day In Odisha, Exposes BJD MP Achyuta Samanta Of Violating Environmental Norms

Odisha’s high profile educationist, media baron and BJD Lok Sabha MP Achyuta Samanta seems to be in the eye of the storm. His media rival OTV (Odisha Television Network) has flashed a story of Samanta’s KIIT University encroaching upon natural water bodies to build its computer science department.  And now local citizens are questioning the government as to how the sub-plot no 121 which is recorded as a water body has been allowed landfill by KIIT to undertake civil construction. Is the Patnaik’s government aware of the alleged encroachment but choosing to remain silent because Samanta is a BJD leader? Incidentally, OTV is owned by Jagi Mangat Panda, wife of ex BJD MP Baijayant (Jay) Panda who is now national VP of BJP.  It is not for the first time Samanta — founder of both KIIT (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology) and KISS (Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences –is in the news for wrong reasons. Way back in 2018 NGT had reportedly ruled that KIIT and KISS had in an unauthorised manner built a playground, houses and gardens without approval from the Forest & Environmental department. With pressures mounting on the state government to protect depleting water bodies post the directive of Odisha HC to bring in appropriate laws the Patnaik government will have to move fast lest BJP makes a political capital out of it.

Govt Proposes FTII Revamp But Student’s Body Opposes

The government’s anthem Mera desh badal raha hai, Aage badh raha hai is also applicable to the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).  The 62-year iconic institution is going in for a major revamp. This move follows after I&B Minister Anurag Thakur had a closed door meeting with FTII chairman Shekhar Kapur.  According to sources, FTII will become somewhat of a polytechnic school taking away the halo of film aesthetics and world film studies. The new effort essentially is to make it a digital multi-purpose market-driven media university without segregating film and TV sections. “I will not be surprised if it is renamed as Digital Art Institution of India,” commented a FTII professor sarcastically. With a view to generate more revenue, plans are to offer short-term courses like broadcast journalism, video games, dubbing and voicing, advertising, makeup, special effects and others. Critics says that the government by drawing outside talent — essentially IAS and IIS officers — may compromise with FTII’s core values and DNA, and it may not be able to produce great talents like Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Anupam Kher, Shyam Benegal.  It is learnt that Shekhar Kapur is torn between students’ continued oppositions towards revamp and I&B pressures to remodel FTII.  To do or not to do is Kapur’s dilemma.

After Hockey, Naveen Patnaik Keen To Promote Chess In Odisha Via Schools & Colleges

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik seems to be taking a leaf out of Tamil Nadu which has emerged as the chess hub. It took a long while but it is yielding dividends to TN as it is hosting the International Chess Olympiad, for the first time, between July 28 and August 10 at Mamallapuram. This event will attract 2,000 participants from 187 countries. Naveen knows this is an incredible opportunity for Tamil Nadu and India to get recognition for hosting these international chess events across the globe and showcasing not only its economy but also augment tourism, cultural understanding just as Odisha did by hosting the Hockey World cup recently. Keeping long term aspirations in mind, Naveen Babu has taken the first baby steps in scripting government’s investment support to popularise, promote and nurture chess games in schools and colleges in a planned manner. It is understood that Patnaik’s interest in promoting chess culture in Odisha is only the starting point. It will require a lot of planning, training, patience, infrastructure support for tournaments and feliciting chess players with monetary prizes just as Tamil Nadu did. Going by Patnaik’s track record this task too will be accomplished in double quick time.
Collage Maker-18-Jul-2022-11

Soumaya Ranjan Pathak and Bhatruhari Mahtab

Odisha’s Media Barons-Cum-BJD Leaders Question Naveen Patnaik’s Working Style

Odisha’s two prominent media barons Soumya Ranjan Patnaik of No 1 daily Sambad and Kanak TV, and Bhatruhari Mahtab of Odisha’s oldest daily Prajatantra seem to be questioning chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s working style. Interestingly, both are senior BJD leaders. Patnaik, son-in-law of the late chief minister JB Patnaik is BJD MLA and so too is Mahtab, BJD’s Lok Sabha MP.  Sources say it was Naveen babu’s clever move to get these media barons on his side by offering them party tickets.  According to sources, these barons now are uncomfortable and would like to speak their minds on a host of burning issues plaguing the state. They want to give an alternate opinion as independent thinkers. But in Naveen babu’s scheme of things policy issues and role of think tank were assigned to bureaucrats who in turn ensured these politicians were kept out of bounds, be it strategic issues or cabinet reshuffle. Feeling left out they have started playing the role of watchdog.  Result: Odisha’s media has started publishing/broadcasting hard stories exposing government’s shortcomings, allegations regarding Covid mortality details being fudged, dominance of bureaucracy ,rising trend of alcohol consumption, corruptions within the party. BJD sources say “The complaining media owners are also part of the BJD government now. When an individual joins a party he ceases to be an independent voice”.

Modi Govt On Mission Mode To Set Up CBSE-Affiliated Eklavya Schools In Tribal Areas

Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Tudu Bishweswar who hails from Mayurbhanj, Odisha is on overdrive to appease the tribal communities who constitute about 23% of Odisha population. This explains why as many as 87 Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS), a co-ed school affiliated to CBSE have been sanctioned for Mayurbhanj which is highest for any state as well as district in India.  Eklavya Schools are being set up in States/Union Territories with grants under Article 27 and are being implemented by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Every block with over 50% of Scheduled Tribe population having at least 20,000 tribal persons will now have EMRS and all backlog have to be completed by the extended target date 2025. Already, the parliamentary committee has expressed dismay over the slow pace of EMRS implementation work by the Tribal Ministry which for not being able to meet the original target of 452 Eklavya Schools by 2022 forcing the government to now extend the deadline to 2025. Tudu, BJP MP, is also under pressure to arrest the large number of tribal children who drop out of school — 55% at primary and nearly 71% at secondary level. It is clear the Modi government is on mission mode to uplift tribal communities and its action of nominating Droupadi Murmu also from Odisha as NDA’s presidential candidate indicates it means business.

Odisha State Assembly Session

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik Unfazed With BJP’s Plan To Make Monsoon Session Stormy

Even though the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik have a good equation, that has not stopped BJP from trying to foist its flag in the state.  So every time there is an election in the state, BJP puts all its might only to come a cropper. Patnaik is a revered leader who has transformed Odisha which is helping the common man. BJP’s goal was to emerge as an alternative to the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha by 2024. Now that seems to be impossible given the fact BJD swept the panchayat and urban elections a few months back thereby derailing BJPs  ‘look east’ campaign. But BJP is not giving up easily. Its State President Sameer Mohanty, National Vice President Baijayant Panda and Odisha State BJP in-charge Vijaypal Singh Tomar have jointly prepared a 3-month strategy to make the monsoon session stormy. This plan will see BJP raise its decibel level on Mahanadi water dispute, power outages, unemployment, mineral theft, PMAY corruption, law and order, tender fixing including Naveen babu’s foreign trip. BJD seems unfazed since it is well-versed in handling opposition darts.  One has to wait and watch whether BJP’s going for the jugular strategy yields dividends?
J P Nadda

Nadda Puts Bengal Bifurcation Plan On Hold, Don’t Press For WB Divide in Public For Now, BJP Leaders Are Told

BJP has woken up to the harsh reality of difficulty in dividing Bengal politically. This realisation saw BJP Chief JP Nadda telling partymen not to rake up the Bengal bifurcation issue in public. Some BJP leaders were pushing for a separate state/Union territory status for North Bengal from the state’s western plateau. This change of heart comes even as TMC postures on unity in political diversity making BJP top leader thinks it is inopportune time to be treading on the statehood landmine and getting perceived as dividers of Bengal. BJP’s MLA numbers are down owing to cross-overs to the TMC. Nine local BJP MLAs have written a letter to Nadda expressing displeasure over recent organisational changes in the state. More importantly, with the Presidential election in July, 2023 panchayat elections and 2024 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s top brass won’t risk slicing Bengal politically for the time being. BJP has also realised that there is no common cause among political parties in North Bengal. “The splitting of Bengal is far from being over, BJP has pressed the pause button for now”, analysts say. So, for now the party is focussed on consolidation fearing its anti-Mamata and divide Bengal politics may boomerang.

Shock Therapy Or Winning Strategy: Naveen Patnaik’s New Cabinet Has Young Women Faces, Eyes On 2024 Polls

Playing a master stroke is a habit with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. But, the latest one caught his band of ministers by surprise. Emboldened by the recent bypoll win in Brajrajnagar and the Panchayat polls earlier, Patnaik did the apparently unthinkable –asking all his ministers to resign en masse on Saturday (June 4) and rejigged the 21-member new cabinet with new faces the next day. Non-performers were shown the door. Surprisingly, Governor Ganesh Lal approved the entire exercise without quibbles. In simpler words Modi’s dispensation did not throw any spanners in the works. Seasoned politicians from Odisha say no Odisha Chief Minister ever, including Naveen’s father Biju Patnaik, had the audacity to do what he did at such a short notice. His decision was with some purpose. Naveen babu clearly wants his party BJD to sweep the 2024 Lok Sabha election in Odisha. To ensure the win, he did away with deadwood, controversial ministers and sycophant advisors. While 20 ministers quit, Naveen gave cabinet berths to only nine. Five women and, seven people elected from western Odisha, considered a stronghold of BJP were also accommodated. Some political analysts are calling it a shock therapy while others are saying it’s Patnaik’s winning strategy. There is no denying that Patnaik remains an undisputable hero for some time to come.

Grasim Dons War Paint With Rs 5000 Crore Budget, As Asian Paints Looks Outside The Segment

For decades, Asian Paints has led the pack in the Rs 60,000-crore plus paint industry. But with Grasim Industries, part of the Aditya Birla Group setting its sights higher, the competition will intensify.  Grasim has chalked up a Rs 5000-crore investment plan in the decorative segment which is growing at 11% per annum. This announcement by Grasim which has heft and gravitas to disrupt the market made competitors like Asian Paints, Berger Paints, Kansai Nerolac and Akzo Nobel sit up and take notice. Grasim’s foray into the segment will be backed by their existing leadership in cement, white cement and putty business. Paint is a high growth market and the pie is large enough for everyone to share, industry observers say. There is no denying that leaders like Asian Paints will not find the going easy anymore. Sajjan Jindal group’s JSW has also entered the space, so cut-throat competition is bound to see ad spends growing with margins coming under pressure. In fact, Asian Paints read the writing on the wall and made public that it was looking beyond paints.  Recently, the company picked up 49% stake in White Teak Company selling lighting and fans and will increase its stake based on the response. Time will tell which company remains in the black and which moves into the red.
Aparajita Sarangi

BJP’s Odisha Core Committee, Without Spokesperson Aparajita Sarangi, Seeks Blueprint To Upstage BJD

BJP’s firebrand and outspoken Odisha MP Aparajita Sarangi, who is also BJP’s National Spokesperson, well known for her high decibel opposition pitch against BJD CM Naveen Patnaik missed out on a berth in the BJP’s newly constituted 17-member Odisha Core Committee. BJP President JP Nadda heads the committee. Only long serving senior BJP members with relevant experience apart from others the BJP thinks will add value and insight have been inducted. Some core committee members include: Baijayant Panda, Dr Sambit Patra, Jual Oram, Pratap Sarangi, Dharmendra Pradhan, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Biseswar Tudu, Suresh Pujari, Samir Mohanty and Sangeeta Kumari Singh Deo. This Odisha Core committee has been formed to prepare for the 2024 general election. The purpose of this committee is to chalk out BJP’s blueprint for the state to win as many seats from Odisha in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The Committee will sit together, think together and work together taking stock of progress made on a monthly basis. Clearly, BJP has understood the need to reinvent itself since the agenda of criticizing Naveen Patnaik and his party Biju Janata Dal BJD did not cut much ice with the people or even taken them anywhere.

Nalco’s Alumina Refinery located at Damanjodi, Odisha

Naveen Patnaik Smelts A Dream, Making Odisha Hub Of SE Asia’s Aluminium, After Steel

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s new dream is to make Odisha India’s aluminium capital and the global aluminium hub. Not without reason too. The state enjoys the true boast of 54% of the aluminium smelting capacity through NALCO, Vedanta and Aditya Birla manufacturing units in India. Of course, this is backed by the state’s rich reserve of 2 billion tonnes of bauxite. NALCO has already chalked out an investment outlay of Rs 30,000 crore towards expansion and diversification to be completed by 2027-28. It has also entered into a JV with the state-owned Industrial Development Corporation to set up a state-of-the-art Aluminium Park in Anugul costing Rs 428.95 crore, estimated completion by 2023-24. The Aluminium Park located next to NALCO’s plant will promote downstream aluminium industries with common facilities including logistics, testing, simulation, prototype development and skill development facilities. Joining the chorus is Anil Agarwal of the Vedanta Group that is also planning a Rs 10,000 crore investment to set up an Aluminium Park at Jharsuguda in Odisha to bring in SMEs and MSMEs under one single roof so they can procure the hot metal from Vedanta. With Patnaik transforming the state, Odisha has emerged as the new investment destination of India.

Tesla’s Roll Out In India Hits Make It In India Fire Wall!

Looks like Tesla may not roll out its EV in India anytime soon. Sources say Tesla recently transferred some key officials out of India to alternate global markets in APEC, Middle East and the USA. This indicates that Elon Musk, who was keen on the Indian market, has decided to move on for the time being. Indianconsumers will buy what’s produced in India by Tata Motors, Mahindra, Morris Garage, Hyundai and Maruti presently. Primarily, Tesla chose not to enter the Indian market because of Indian government policies. Given our relationship with China and Modi’s push for Make in India, the BJP government was averse to allow made in China Tesla cars, boosting Chinese employment, but marketed in India without an immediate commitment to manufacture in India? There are several reasons Musk may have put India on the back burner. Firstly, current EV sales touch barely 1% of total auto sales in the country which does not make economic sense for Tesla to set up a unit in India. Secondly, with 100% import duty, Tesla will become over priced in the Indian market. Thirdly, India is not yet ready with its infrastructure, including road worthiness and charging stations. And, fourth reason is Indian insistence on a long term manufacturing commitment, distinct from being considered like a test pilot case.

Environmental Norms Are Rough Shod, With NGT Fines At Odds, Government Needs To Use The Rod

It is no thanks to the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) vigilance that both, the private sector and government-owned companies brazenly breach environmental laws and, very happily pay the prescribed fines. The reality is that the importance of environmental conservation is not given its due consideration with the NGT mandated penalty system not a functional and practical deterrent. Observers say, tougher measures are needed for the private sector and government-owned companies like NTPC, Indian Oil, BPCL, Singareni Collieries and others that boast of a track record of repeat environmental violations. Without the government’s continued commitment, NGT cannot deliver results by itself and, sadly, tough government intervention is only seen in the wake of intense public pressure. Take the case of the Vedanta Group which had to shut down its Thoothukudi plant, over Sterlite’s pollution issue. No lessons appear to have been learnt from it. Recently, NGT fined Vedanta Rs 25 crore for the expansion of the Lanjigarh factory in Odisha without due EC clearances and also levied a Rs 25 crore penalty upon Hindustan Zinc for violating environment norms in Rajasthan. Sometime in 2017, Vedanta was asked by the Chhatisgarh government to shut down its 1200 mw Balco power plant for violations of environmental norms. Harsh measures yielded results and today, Balco’s power plant is one of the best energy conservation units in the country.

Anandiben, Tamilisai, Dhankar In The Fray, Frontrunners For President’s Post Come July?

Who will occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan when the term of the current President of India Ram Nath Kovind’s ends in July? Speculations are rife about Kovind getting a possible second term or Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu being elevated. Well-placed sources reveal that Governor of Uttar Pradesh and former Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel, her counterparts from West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankar and Telangana, Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan (also Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry) are front runners for the top post. Names doing the rounds for Vice President’s post include, Draupadi Murmu, ex-Governor of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh Governor Anusuiya Uikey, Kerala’s Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Karnataka Governor Tawarchand Gehlot. The BJP is seeking a distinct profile having a loyalist tag, to fit in with BJP’s national ambition to widen its Hindutva vote bank while being representative of societal segments of importance.  Opposition parties representing West Bengal, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are failingly trying to prop up a consensus candidate. Exploiting this BJP hopes to enlist support for its candidates from Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. Both are learnt to have agreed to support NDA candidates. Patnaik’s support will go public once NDA announces its candidates. Everybody knows the final decision rests with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who may spring a surprise.

R To L: Jatin Das,Bhajan Sopori and Mayadhar Raut

Union Government Evicts Artistes From Government Quarters, Welcomed For Six Years, Had Overstayed For Decades

A recent Union Government move to forcefully evict eminent artistes, including Padmashree awardees from government quarters located in plush localities of New Delhi, has angered the denizens of the arts and culture world. These artistes were permitted to stay for 6-year-terms but, many have even continued to stay on since the 1970s. Some of the artistes include: painter Jatin Das, Kathak dancer the late Pandit Birju Maharaj, Santoor player Bhajan Sopori, Odissi dancer and Padmashree awardee Mayadhar Raut among others. The BJP government thought it prudent to get out of the cycle of never-ending extensions and held consultations with the national artistes who were overstaying in government allotted quarters even as they simultaneously pursued legal options to secure stay orders from courts. Policy makers and lawmakers questioned whether national artistes should continue receiving such perpetual government patronage of free housing. The government thought it prudent to evict them post December 31, 2021 after serving them final eviction notices.  Observers say, if the government has a legitimate role in pursuing art and culture, it must set out broad inclusive policies and create an environment, so that, eminent artistes, researchers, scientists, writers and poets can have a special place that’s conducive to working, teaching and interacting with like-minded people. And that place does not necessarily have to be New Delhi.

Odisha To Give Land For JSW’s Green Field Project This Fiscal, As Patnaik Turns Bhubaneshwar Into India’s Steel Capital

To make good the exit of South Korean steel major Posco, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has successfully roped in India’s leading integrated steel major JSW Steel, part of the $13 bn JSW Group headed by Sajjan Jindal. JSW’s wholly owned subsidiary JSW Utkal Steel is expected to set up 13.2 MTPA at an investment cost of Rs 65,000 crore in Jagatsinghpur district close to Paradeep port. The Odisha project dovetails with Jindal’s game plan of achieving 50 MT capacity. The JSW project has already received EC clearance and is getting ready to implement pre-project stage requirements including employment and livelihood creations. The Odisha government seems confident of handing over 2,950 acre land to JSW Steel this fiscal since most land parcels belong to the government anyway. Other small gap are being covered through collective persuasion, court support rejecting vested PILs and fair compensation for loss of betel-nut farm lands. Learning from the Posco experience, the Odisha government is not leaving any chances for slippages anywhere, by taking everyone on board through village meetings, addressing concerns with matched speed of action to deliver complete parcels of land to JSW this fiscal. If Naveen babu gets the project going Bhubaneswar could well emerge as the steel capital of India with other players like ArcelorMittal, JSPL and others also evincing interest.

BJD-BJP Face Off Again, As Modi Halts Patnaik's Bhubaneshwar Heritage City Temple Run

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s ambitious Ekamra Shetra Project which aims to transform the old temple town of Bhubaneswar into a world class tourist and pilgrimage centre at a cost of Rs 700 crore has run into rough weather. BJP is opposing the project while Congress is supporting it. The issue centres around the beautification initiative to make Bhubaneswar a world class heritage temple city based on 12th century Lingaraj Temple. Patnaik is keen to include Bhubaneswar’s ancient structures in UNESCO World Heritage sites. But it has already run into controversy over allegations that ancient monuments were destroyed during an excavation drive by the state government. ASI says they were never consulted and watchdog INTACH has alleged that many priceless structures were destroyed as there was no deployment of ground-penetrating radar analysis before commencement of work.  Based on this feedback, the Union Home Ministry has blocked Odisha’s Lingaraj Temple Legislative Ordinance terming it unlawful as it falls under Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR), 1958. The home ministry has pointed out that Patnaik government has already violated the AMASR Act around Lingaraj temple by building modern structures. The real bone of contention seems to be the appointment of Dr Santrupt Mishra, Group Director from the Aditya Birla Group to head the project instead of getting experts from INTACH.  This move, many bureaucrats in Odisha believe, was needless.
Naveen Subarnarekha

Odisha Government Pulls Out All The Stops To Complete Subarnarekha Port By 2024

Since winning the panchayat and urban body elections, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been pulling out all the stops to kickstart Tata Steel’s Rs 5,000 crore Subarnarekha deep-sea all-weather port in Balasore district. He hopes to complete the project before the 2024 general election and, is moving quickly on the land acquisition front; with nearly 146 acres of land almost acquired. The state has already provided 700 acres of land for port construction near the Chaumukh seashore, Baliapal. However, for the construction of a new rail line from Amarda Road to the port at Chaumukh and widening of existing roads and creating new ones, it needs to acquire another 300 acres.  According to Sudarshan Chakravarti, Collector & District Magistrate, Balasore “Of the 300 acres requirement of land 154 acres has already been acquired with the balance to be acquired soon.” Land acquisition may not be a problem as the government is paying a good compensation — three times more than the registered value. Tata’s project will have the first mover advantage over Adani Group which is setting up a green field port at Tajpur in West Bengal which is literally next door. When both ports become operational East India will emerge as the new regional maritime hub.

BJP Washed Out In Odisha Local Body Polls, By Naveen Babu Transformational Schemes

Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) absolute sweep in the recently held rural panchayat polls and urban body elections raises serious doubts about BJP’s political future in Odisha. The misery for the BJP was apparent as it could not even win a single mayoral seat in the urban body polls, even as the initial buzz of support around Modi dissipated. Political analysts say BJP failed to match BJD’s organisational infrastructure. Besides, the towering leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik helped to sweep the elections through good governance that has transformed the state reaching people at the bottom of the pyramid. Die-hard BJP supporters feel the initial buzz around BJP’s consolidation is history now in the face of depleting BJP support base in the west Odisha electorate, which is slowly spreading to other parts of the state. Why did the BJP fail? Unlike the BJD, with Naveen babu as its face, the BJP state leadership in the state has no one to talk about. Also, the Central government’s development schemes could not overshadow Patnaik’s welfare schemes vis a vis and the positive image he has cultivated over the years. Modi’s constant praise of Patnaik for his spirit of co-operative federalism, his reforms and reluctance to criticise him openly also sent signals that Modi was not keen to fight Naveen babu.

Photo : Twitter

Andhra’s Unhappy Electorate, Collapsing Economy, May Prompt Cabinet Rejig By Chief Minister

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is planning a cabinet reshuffle, it is reliably learnt. The move was necessitated to prepare for future state elections and needed transformation for effective governance. Jagan may introduce new ministerial faces, retaining some old favourites to maintain caste balances, and push out others with district leadership responsibilities to enhance their vote gathering skills. “It is more a political messaging,” say YSR Congress Party insiders of the financially strapped government. Political observers in AP say “The recent history of cabinet reshuffles tells us two things. It is both, a political call and a diversionary vote catching tactic.” Jagan, wants to send a message to the electorate while facing an imminent economic collapse, that the cabinet rejig will induct the right political leadership using voters’ feedback on MLAs over performance parameters while also signalling the impermanence of cabinet positions. This exercise is also being done on the fear of an eroding electoral base with very little development work done in Andhra, says a clued-in political analyst. Not wishing to take chances, Jagan is asking his MLAs to go for door-to-door campaigns and connect with the people. Will such superficiality work?
Odisha Bridge_001

How Odisha Chief Minister Is Checkmating Maoists With His Infrastructure Connectivity Programmes And Welfare Schemes

The most remote district of Malkangiri, infamous as a hotbed of Maoist activity, still holds a special place in the heart of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The government has announced that Malkangiri district, located in south west Odisha, will have an airport by 2024. This development comes post the defeat of BJP and Congress in the recently held panchayat elections. Patnaik is now pursuing a governance policy to uplift Odisha’s backward regions through social welfare and infrastructure connectivity as the CM knows that is the key to Odisha’s transformation. A case in point is Gurupriya Bridge completed in 2018. The bridge provides connectivity to 151 villages that were cut-off for over five decades. “It is not just a bridge,” CM had tweeted, “it is the identity and Swabhiman of Malkangiri”. This bridge provides government services at the doorstep for Odias living in the back of the beyond thereby weaning them away from Maoist clutches. Prior to the airport building initiative, Patnaik had also chosen Malkangiri to launch his popular one-rupee rice scheme that was followed by the launch of the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana smart health cards, also from this remote region. With the new airport for Malkangiri district, expectations are that the Maoist hold, their extortions, levies and local support base will fade away for sure as development increases.
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Odisha’s Opposition Bites The Dust In Panchayat Polls, As Naveen Patnaik's BJD Juggernaut Is On A Roll!

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has once again triumphed over opposition political formations in Orissa. In the recent Panchayat elections, his party Biju Janata Dal (BJD)decimated BJP and Congress bagging 765 of the total 851 Zilla Parishad seats. BJD was able to install 30 Zilla Parishad presidents in the 30 districts, placing a question mark on the future of both BJP and Congress.  All this was achieved although Patnaik did not hit the campaign trail. His work speaks for itself; he has transformed Odisha over the last two decades and won people’s hearts. This win may have implications for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.  BJP’s MP, Basant Panda attributed BJD’s sweeping electoral success to the BJP’s own failure to convince people to not vote for the BJD. Both BJP MP Pratap Sarangi and Niranjan Pattnaik, President of Odisha Pradesh Congress blamed their losses on the financial might of BJD. Political analysts say both BJP and Congress are now giving lame excuses. They will need to put a strategy in place to beat BJD’s organisational skills and mass appeal of the electorate. And even if they do, will they get a State leader who can match the charisma of Naveen Patnaik?

Naveen Patnaik’s Subtle ‘No Tariff Hike’ Request, Has OERC Doing Balancing Act

The Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC), currently hearing the annual revenue requirement to fix bulk supply price for 2022-23, was subtly asked by the state government to disallow tariff hikes sought by power utilities.  The popular Naveen Patnaik government has told OERC to find a win-win solution for all stakeholders. “The balancing act of finding a solution without consumer tariff hikes is the prerogative of OERC, which is doable,” an industry expert says. The rationale for “no power tariff hikes”: The Four Tata Power DISCOMs in Odisha especially, TPWODL posted excellent results for the nine-month period in the current financial year. Their performances contributed to a total of Rs 600 crore regulatory surpluses.  In the regulatory framework, DISCOMs are permitted pass through of reasonable expenses and only 16% return on equity (RoE) and hence, the possibility to adjust the Rs 600 crore revenue surplus of Tata DISCOMs suitably while accommodating pass through of genuine expenses of GRIDCO, OPTCL and other state generation companies (OHPC & OPGC) with no increase in retail tariffs for consumers in 2022-23.  The quality of power supply and consumer services in the State are expected to improve with capital investment of Rs 2000 Cr by the Odisha Government over the next 2-3 years.
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Photo : Twitter

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik Prays, Meets The Media, So Rumours Of Ill Health Fizzle Out Before Panchayat Polls

Every time Odisha faces a poll, the rumour mills work overtime regarding Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s fragile health. Patnaik knows this game is played by opposition parties to cut into his vote base. Now, with Panchayat elections around the corner, Patnaik took the wind out of the opposition sails by addressing the media while on a visit to the Lingaraj Temple. “I am fit and fine,” he conveyed to waiting newspersons. Although appearing slightly under the weather he fronted supreme confidence. Voters in Odisha know Naveen babu’s health is not in the best of pink but, they simply adore and love him for his delivery. No other chief minister in the country enjoys his kind of popularity. The rumours of his ill health also served as a wake-up call to his party, the Biju Janata Dal. Succession talks on taking over the mantle of the BJD have begun. While there are no clear answers, political analysts feel the BJP which was waiting in the sidelines for years feels the inevitable political vacuum being created and its double engine formula may fill this space in the coming days.

Shenbagam Manthiram

Tata Power’s Electrifying Plans For Odisha To Transform Cuttack, Bhubaneshwar For Mumbai Like Consumer Experience

Tata Power operations in Odisha is firing on all cylinders for an uninterrupted quality power supply. According to Shenbagam Manthiram, CEO of Tata Power Central Odisha, by 2023, the twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar will have power quality on Mumbai city standards, thanks to its SCADA technology and LT protection system. This apart, Tata Discoms is putting in place a cyclone resilience disaster network spanning 60 km between the Puri and Konark shoreline to withstand cyclones which annually ravage Odisha, paralysing its power supply. Moreover, it is focusing on a single digit AT&C loss through Capex plans of Rs 1500 crore over the next three years. It will soon launch smart pre-paid self-reading certified HPL 3 phase meters on rental basis at Rs 150 per month and re-charge options. “From February/ March 2022 power purchase in Odisha will go hi-tech, enabling customers with pre-paid meters,” says Manthiram. Initially, covering only 3 phase consumers the scheme will scale up to include others subsequently. The aim is to cover 175,000 customers, improving progressively thereafter. To achieve this goal, Tata Discoms has automated 155 sub-stations linked to SCADA, another 300 will be added this year so that by 2023, 80% of its sub-stations will be unmanned. By 2024 it plans to eradicate low voltage power supply pockets in Odisha and, unveil roof top solar projects in Odisha.
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Dr PK Jayasree

After Kottayam, Kerala Govt Goes All Out To Bring 8 More Districts To Zero Poverty Level

Kerala is making news, not because of Shashi Tharoor or Arundhati Roy but the effort the State made to eliminate poverty through progressive measures and improving human quality of life. India’s recent first ever Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of NITI Aayog has revealed that Kottayam District in Kerala has no poor residents. District Magistrate PK Jayasree of Kottayam said “Kerala has eight more districts Ernakulam, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kannur, Palakkad, Alappuzha, Kollam, and Pathanamthitta which are below 1% poverty line, efforts are on to make it to the level of 0 % poverty in the next financial year.” The District Magistrate is now introducing ISO standardisation at Kottayam Collectorate followed by other government offices in Kottayam’s District Headquarter. Political observers say, “It is a reflection of the Left Government’s unwavering commitment towards social welfare and initiating updated standardisation which makes it stand out against the rest.” Kerala’s national average of poverty index stands at 25.01%, whereas Kerala, Puducherry and Goa have stable poverty levels, while the worst performers today are UP, MP, Jharkhand and Bihar. NITI Aayog’s MPI index has three quality parameters spread between health, education and standards of living conditions which comprise cooking facilities, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, living conditions, assets and bank accounts. India’s MPI measures use globally accepted robust methodology by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative.


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.