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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 44

Letter to the PM on taking Urgent Measures for Peace in Kandhamal

Saturday 25 October 2008, by Debiprasanna Pattanayak, Manoranjan Mohanty, Pralay Kanungo

Dear Sir,

As academics who have studied the socio-economic conditions of modern Orissa and who have been extremely pained by the recent outbreak and persistence of violence in Kandhamal we present the following suggestions which we believe are practical and well within the capacity of the Central Government to undertake. The State Government can be called upon to cooperate in implementing these measures.

I. Immediate Steps for providing Security for Life and Property

1. Adequate CRPF and armed forces with helicopters for maintaining peace.

2. Centre-State Joint Monitoring Groups in Delhi, Bhubaneswar, all district headquarters in Orissa, including Kandhamal, as well as in Block headquarters and Panchayats well-connected with each other and publicly sharing information about violence and peace measures through bulletins.

3. Security and protection in the villages to enable the displaced families to return and rebuild their homes with full support and financial compensation provided by the Centre and the State and resume living in dignity, good neighbourliness and exercising freedom of faith.

4. Each case of crime such as killing, rape, burning houses, religious places and destroying public property must be prosecuted and the perpetra-tors and instigators be punished according to law. Anyone participating in any campaign of communal hatred must be penalised under law.

5. Peace and dialogue groups to be formed in each village/Panchayat/Block representing different communities facilitated by the representatives of political parties, officials, local teachers and social workers.

6. Inter-faith groups from all religions from different parts of the country and from within Orissa should undertake an extensive tour and set up peace and dialogue processes at each level.

II. Urgent Socio-Economic Measures for Adivasis

1. Fully funded residential High Schools may be set up in each Block to facilitate minimum secondary education for the children of Kandhamal, the bulk of whom are adivasis. Education in these schools should be sensitive to the culture and language of the region. Additional vocational training schools and ITIs may be set up to enable the local youth to find suitable employment. Special research support may be given for the preservation and promotion of language, culture, tradition and religions of the adivasis of the area.

2. Agro-industries, forest-based industries and other appropriate industries may be set up with public investment taking into account local resources and potentialities to generate more employment and contribute to the economic development of the region. Processing units for the rich natural products of Kandhamal, such as turmeric and ginger, may be urgently set up in the district. An expert group may be asked to make a plan for the development of industry, agriculture and forestry of the area within three months.

3. A special recruitment drive may be launched to provide jobs to the youth of Kandhamal not only in the Army and police but also in other public and private sector undertakings.

4. The long-pending project for building the Khurda Road-Bolangir railway line may be expedited so that the region benefits from the linkages with the State and national economy.

5. Community land or tribal land and forest illegally occupied by the State agencies and non-tribals must be returned to the tribal community for which a special administrative drive must begin immediately. Tribal occupation of forest land must be regularised under the new Forest Act and they may be given land titles. Individual cases of grievances concerning land may be settled expeditiously.

6. Effective implementation of the development programmes such as NREGA, NRHM, SSA Bharat Nirman Yojana must be firmly ensured by the joint efforts of the governmental and the non-governmental machinery.

With warm regards,

Manoranjan Mohanty, Retired Professor, University of Delhi, currently Durgabai Deshmukh Professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi; Pralay Kanungo, Professor of Politiical Science, JNU, New Delhi; Debiprasanna Pattanayak, former Director, Central Institute of Indian Languages, New Delhi

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