Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
People perish when their government betrays them. In Orissa this is happening.
That about ninety per cent of the funds appropriated for development of the rural areas are being misappropriated by the politico-bureaucratic nexus hand-in-glove with contractors, as per audit and other expert observations is an indicator to this. But this is not going to form the crux of this report.
That, Orissa has lost the National Institute of Sciences to Kolkata is another indicator. But that is also not going to be dealt with in this report.
That diversion of water flow from Haldia by West Bengal Government to the Orissa coast has flooded Balasore and caused extensive, irrecoverable loss to standing crops in that district is also indicative of this. But I am not going to tell of that in this report.
That, West Bengal has started collecting land revenue from 60 villages of Orissa is a further indicator. But that too is not going to be discussed here.
I am going to tell you only one thing. And, that starts with a visit to www.kolkataporttrust.gov.in the official website of Kolkata Port Trust (KPT). I visited this site today i.e.31 October 2005 at 21.30 IST and found in it the same Notice that the Orissa Government had wanted us to believe to have been withdrawn.
In this Notice bearing No. Admn./ Misc. 658/C, issued on July 08, 05, the KPT has invited “Expression of Interest for transloading of dry bulk cargo at Sandheads/ KANIKA SAND ANCHORAGE” even though this Anchorage belongs to Orissa. It is not tagged to any time limit.
The Notice was floated in National dailies published from Kolkata and Delhi inviting global attention.
Orissa has Public Relation Offices in both these places. They are specifically assigned to keep a constant and continuous watch on any publicity that may jeopardize Orissa. All the newspapers and journals available in these cities are provided to them free of cost for this purpose only. But enjoying life as they are under a government that is not seen to be serious in safekeeping of the State property, none of these Public Relation Officers and the Resident Commissioner at New Delhi could take a note of the KPT mischief. The State Government naturally remained ignorant of it.
After lapse of two months, a functionary of Dhamra Port accidentally got an inkling of the shenanigans around the Kanika anchorage when an unknown bidder visited the place with KPT officials, in the month of September. He reported the matter to Orissa’s Secretary of Commerce and Transport (C&T), who on September 19 preferred a protest letter to KPT. But the people of the State remained in dark.
Thanks to the employees of Dhamra port who were deeply distressed at the State Government’s inability to protect Orissa interest, the information eventually reached the Press in October. Thereafter C&T secretary Ms. Rajlaxmi issued a fresh letter to KPT asking for withdrawal of the Notice.
Even as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik kept mum, around mid October Ms. Rajalaxmi impressed upon the Press that responding to her protests, the KPT has withdrawn its proposed venture at Kanika. She claimed that everything was set right. And, people also believed.
But my visit to the KPT website today makes it abundantly clear that Ms. Rajlaxmi has given us a wrong information. If her version was correct, how is it that the website of KPT carries the concerned notice even today, i.e. October 31? Want to cross check? Go to www.kolkataporttrust.gov.in , click on the ‘tender’ tab in the Home page, go to the caption, ‘Administration’ on the page that would open, you will find the first tender notice blinking a superscripted word ‘new’ with a time tag to be opened on 14. 11. 2005. Scroll down to item No. 4. It reads:
NOTICE INVITING EXPRESSION OF INTEREST FOR TRANSLOADING OF DRY BULK CARGO AT SANDHEADS / KANIKA SAND ANCHORAGE. [Admn/Misc.658/C]
There is no time tag on it.
When thus the KPT Notice has never been withdrawn, how has the C&T Secretary of Orissa fed us with the false information?
Why has not the Chief Minister come out with the clear facts?
I had earlier noted in these pages that Orissa is in the worst phase of her life. Taking what has happened to Kanika into consideration, I am inclined to repeat the same apprehension.
Far from withdrawing the Notice, KPT chairman A.K.Chanda has asserted that he has done no mistake in notifying for Kanika sand anchorage. It might not be within the limits of Haldia Dock Complex, but it doesn’t transpire in the records of Orissa’s Dhamara complex too, he has said.
It is a shame that Orissa Government has failed to retort. These fellows are so very busy in contriving ever-newer methods to support POSCO that they do not seem to have any time to protect geographical interest of Orissa.
When Kanika does not find her name in the ‘Port Profile’ prepared and published by the State Government, who can stop if Kolkata plays a mischief?
In order to help POSCO, the State Government has framed a Port Policy aimed at establishing a single window agency to be “vested with authority and powers to plan, direct and implement the maritime development in the State with private sector participation”.
It has identified 12 “Greenfield sites for development as minor ports” which would be of immense use “to decongest the existing major ports on the eastern coastal region so as to cater to the needs of increasing volumes of international and domestic traffic”. They are: (1) Gopalpur in the district of Ganjam, (2) Dhamara (Bhadrak), (3) Palur (Ganjam), (4) Bali Harachandi (Puri), (5) Astaranga (Puri), (6) Bahuda Muhana (Ganjam), (7) Chudamani (Ganjam), (8) Inchuri, (9) Chandipur, (10) Subarnarekha Mouth or Kirtania and (11) Bahabalapur (Balasore) and (12) Jatadhar Muhan (Jagatsingpur). Is there any mention of Kanika in this list?
Had the State Government been under efficient hands, it would never have ignored or abandoned Kanika. Till the Bengalis, who were native servants of the British, used their yeomanhood to misguide their masters for using methods of subterfuge against Orissa’s maritime excellence, Kanika was a famous shipbuilding center. (Report of A. Sterling, 1846, p.38)
E.Watson, 4th Judge, Calcutta Court of Circuit, in his report dated 3 may, 1817 to the secretary to Government in the Judicial Department, had mention of the matchless ships of Orissa. They were “by far the best that I ever saw in any part of India”, he had said. These ships were being built at Kanika anchorage, where, even today, as mentioned in the admiralty chat, a depth of 15 mtrs, (according to KPT estimation 23 mtrs) is available which, being in the sheltered zone, remains “calm during southwest monsoon”. There is no better a place than the Kanika anchorage for shipbuilding, transloading and other maritime activities.
In ‘The Despatches, 1686-1692’ at page 24, it is noted, “Kanika road afforded a convenient base for loading and unloading of ships. In 1687, the Dutch carried out a good trade in boiled rice at this road. They exported this commodity to Maldive and Ceylone. Afterwards the English traders also showed inclination to enter into the rice trade at Kanika with the assistance of the Balasor merchants”.
These are only a few of what history has noted on Kanika. It is strange that the present government of Orissa has failed to take note of this.