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November 29, 2013

AUTHOR’S INTERVIEW : FEATURING UMA SHANKAR PANDA

AUTHOR’S INTERVIEW : FEATURING UMA SHANKAR PANDA

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.

The living Icon of literary Orissa is Mr Uma shankar Panda. Translation is an area in which much attention has been paid. Most of the books into Oriya are translated into Bengali novels and many others. Almost all the prize winning works are available in Oriya translation. In a very cordial interview , Mr. Panda talks about his life and works.

Works of the author :
Umashankar Panda has been familiarized many western authors to the oriya reader. A great contribution by him . A poet, short stories writer, radio and television script writer and an incredible translators of regional and foreign languages books/novels/fictions.

Author’s inspirations :
Serious writers don’t wait to be inspired. Serious writers roll up their sleeves and get down to the business of writing. According to him “Being inspired” smacks of amateurish, daydream passivity, the notion that some supernatural presence must appear before us before the words can flow. He draws inspirations basically from nature, human psychology , and the human behavior . To be inspired by people is to be continually rewarded with story ideas. People are walking, talking stories. Everyone we encounter has the potential for contributing to our understanding of human nature—if we allow ourselves to be inspired by human nature in all its diversity. Inspiration matters because it prods us to traverse the full spectrum of human experience. An important part of what it means to be a writer is to become so turned on to the business of being alive, to be so completely inspired by life, that you will harvest ideas for writing everywhere—from books, from people, from music and other art forms, from the natural world, and most of all from your own inner resources.  There are ripples created in the mind and heart which is expressed in the themes of poetries and other prose writings such as stories, novels and plays.

When asked about the spheres of life he has worked on , he replied ,
I have worked on emotions and imaginations. The life around us i.e. all living creatures , cycle of birth to death and all the nature.

I asked him , “ in which languages do you write ? “
Basically , I write in Odiya.

Out if curiosity , I asked him , “ Did you belong to any literary movements? If so, Please describe.
He was very frank about it and declared openly ,
“In the early phase of my life I was a Communist/leftist thinker and was writing poetry for the masses , laborers and downtrodden. But afterwards , I shifted my writings to portray the human emotions and aptitude of the common mass and its effect on the day to day life.
In the second phase, I indulge myself writing poetry and prose analyzing the psychological mindset of various classes of people( Men and women) and their social behavior in different spheres.
I was the Vice Chairman of Odisha Sahitya Academy too.”

AWARDS :-
1.     Odisha Sahitya Academy Award in poetry.
2.   Bisuvaya Award in Poetry.
3.   Jhankar Award in Poetry
4.   Dharitri Upayan in Poetry
5.    Fakir Mohan Galapa Saman from Utkal Sahitya Samaj
6.   Akil Mohan Bisesh Kabi Saman
7.    Akash Vani Annual Award, New Delhi
8.   Utkal Pustak Sansad
9.   Ati Bhadi Jaggnath Dash Puraskar
10.                      Gangadhar Sammruti Saman
11.Pustak Mela Saman / Book Fair Awards across the states.

and many to his credentials.

I was so engrossed with his works and life , that I could not help but asking  about his opinion regarding the young generation writers.

His tone seemed to be very optimistic. He replied , “ A progressive trend is flourishing. Mindset style of work is gradually changing with the influence of social, political and life style of the countrymen at present.
The Young talents are bright and conscious of their own position in the social frame. They are faithful and true to their emotions. They often compose their best and most lasting work when they are young. “There’s something very misleading about the literary culture that looks at writers in their 30s and calls them ‘budding’ or ‘promising,’ when in fact they are peaking.”

Lastly , I dedicate this question to our dear readers  . I asked this great personality to  leave a message for you all and here is it , from our very own Umashankar Panda :
“ The readers should have a wide mental set up and neutral in judgement while reading books. They should have their own impressions and freelancing aptitude while commenting on the latest work of literature.”

 Lastly , a treat to our readers : A Poem by Umashankar Panda

‘The White Flowers ‘

In this bosom . . . 
I must carry a basket 
of flowers 
for you 
as the flower 
is a kind of fire 
that burns the unconcerned bee 
and helpless butterflies. 

Shameless 
is the wicked wind 
that makes you naked 
any moment. 

If I meet Grief 
this time 
I shall ask — 
what is its intention 
to come so suddenly 
like the lonely girl 
carrying white flowers in her hand 
alone 
as if a magic wand ? 



( Interviewed by – Siddhartha Mishra )

November 17, 2013

Price hike a major issue, 16-30,2013, NOV , JUST IN PRINT




Price rise is one of the most ticklish current problems. Whenever we go to make some purchases in the market, we learn to our great disappointment that the prices of most of the commodities have risen. And sometimes quite exorbitantly. There are several reasons for this steep rise in prices.
Prices of all commodities are rising almost daily. For what you buy a commodity today, you cannot have it on the same price a few days after. The hardest hit on this problem is the salaried class. The businessmen and the traders meet out the problem of dearness by earning larger profits.


The labour class too charges high wages and has a low standard of living, so they, too, anyway cope with the rising prices. But the salaries often remain fixed. The rate of increase in dearness allowance is so low that it hardly meets the rate of rising prices. The condition of the salaried class in the private sector is all the more problematic.
An onion, today being compared with diamonds indicates its value for an normal household budget. Though price rise of all the essential commodities, inflation and depreciating rupee are making headlines these days but rise in the price of onion is catching everyone’s eye, as it is an essential ingredient in almost every food item prepared at Indian home daily. Owing to this, price rise of onions quickly becomes a political issue and a vote fetching agenda by the opposition.


After China, India is the second largest producer of onion and enjoys 19% share of the global onion production. Maharashtra and Karnataka are the chief onion producing states in India and contribute near about 45% of the total production of onion in India.
But this year again the situation is same. Speculations are going on that traders might have increased the price to earn profit. They are actually exploiting and taking advantage of the seasonal shortage in supplies. Maharashtra, the chief state producing onion has been asked for a regular supply of onion. It should intimate if there is any obstruction in the supply chain.


Stocks are low after a drought last year in Maharashtra state, the top onion producer in the country. And there have been reports that this year’s crop is damaged in some pockets because of heavy rains , but that’s just a few thousand hectares.
It is getting so bad that the government has had to cease its mantra of buy less, export more for other costly commodities and import onions for Indians to cook their classic dishes.
Television channels and other media have hyped the 100 rupees per kg fear this month, busy reporting how onion prices are bringing tears across the country. That prompted consumers to buy more and advance purchases. The consequence of this unchecked rise in prices has been disastrous for the people. The wage earners have been hit hard by this rising trend of prices.

The exorbitant prices of essentials commodities including the local vegetables are ruining the lives of people from the low income and middle income group. Consumers have faced a sharp rise in prices of staple food items such as pulses, sugar and edible oil.
Besides the rise in prices of almost all essential commodities, the hike in prices of LPG, kerosene and petrol has added to their woes.
Consumers allege that prices of essential commodities goes on changing every month in the market and the common men are in a fix over frequent change in prices of commodities.

Rising prices of essential commodities like wheat, rice, sugar, ghee, mug dal, masur dal including groceries and vegetables have thrown family budgets of the common man and people below poverty line into disarray. There is dissatisfaction among the common men with the fact that the prices of some of the essential commodities have been revised further.


Prices of varieties of vegetables in the vegetable markets were soaring. Prices of Brinjal, onion, cucumber, bhendi besides fruits have also gone up. Common men have started feeling the pinch of the price rise in vegetables and other essential items and those who have nothing to cushion the effect are cutting down on their monthly intake on other eatables.

There are several causes for this continuous price rise. Firstly, the population of the country is increasing while the agricultural and industrial production is not keeping pace with it. The inevitable salt is that the demand for various goods has increased. Secondly, unscrupulous businessmen create artificial scarcity by hoarding goods and selling them in black market. Thirdly, there are occasional droughts in some parts of the country resulting in shortages and floods in other part of the country and consequently the rise in prices. Frequent strikes and lockouts adversely affect the industrial production. The hike in the price of oil products from time to time contributes to the rise in prices by pushing the cost of production up and also increasing transport charges of goods.

The government has been trying to hold the price line. It has taken over the wholesale food grain trade. Rationing system has been introduced to assure the supply of food grains, sugar and edible oils to all the people. Consumer cooperative stores and super bazaars have been opened to stabilize prices. The results, however, have not been very encouraging. The government has now armed itself with powers to detain the hoarders and black marketers without trial under the Essential Commodities Act but this too has not shown any tangible results. The correct remedy is to increase production both of agriculture and industrial goods.

Unless power supply position is improved, industries will not be able to run to their full capacity. Again power is needed in agriculture also. The immediate need of the country is to have consumer resistance movement which should see that the retailers and the wholesalers reduce their margin of profit.

Rising prices encourage hoarding, profiteering, black –marketing and corruption. They discourage export. They cause devaluation of currency. Lastly, they seriously disrupt equitable distribution of wealth. Exploitation,hoarding,speculation all in the absence of an assuring regulatory for all essentials,food,oils,foodgrains and even vegetables for the common man.This should be demanded by us in the manifesto of the parties in future elections.

Now let us come to the contentious issue which is common to all the commodities price rise and bone of contention between the government and opposition parties that is forward trading. Now some people will criticize me of knowing very little of the commodity trading, but my only point is why do you need speculative trading on the essential commodities, when you could have such trading on nearly each and every finance vehicle like equity shares, currency exchanges etc. The forward trading increases the speculation in markets and people who are really not in the supply chain of these commodities get into it and unnecessarily disrupts the chain leading to disparity in normal price mechanism of these commodities.


The main reason for sky-rocketing of prices is the unabated rise in population at an alarming rate. All this expenditure pushes up the rate of living. Those who can afford, also purchase luxurious items like the refrigerator, air conditioner, desert cooler, geyser and other such gadgets. There is also a lot of wastage on parties, dinners, inaugu­ration and other functions and on canvass­ing, publicity and propaganda during elec­tions. The hoarders, stockiest and black- marketers also push up prices by causing artificial scarcity in the market. Wars and arms race also lead to shortage and price- rise.
It is a pity that even more than forty five years after independence, most of the Indians are still leading a dog’s life. Only some lucky ones roll in luxury. The government should take some drastic steps to keep prices under control.

The problem is very intricate and horrible. Drastic efforts shall have to be made by all concerned. Unless political parties, government, farmers, laborers, government employees, traders and the businessmen and the consumers all give up their narrow selfish ends, the problem cannot be solved.


Increasing of agricultural and industrial production, proper distribution of the commodities, safeguarding them in the stores, paying taxes to the government without any evasion some of the measures which if applied honestly will not only check the trend of rising prices but also bring them down.

Let the government take initiative to bring down the prices. Deficit budgeting and floating of paper currency should be stopped and such arrangements should be made which would ensure the proper supply of things so that tendencies of hoarding and profiteering may be eradicated. The price rising then shall stop.

Siddhartha Shankar Mishra,

Sambalpur, Odisha

Criminalization in Indian Politics , 16 - 30 , 2013 NOV, JUST IN PRINT


India, the largest democratic country and also home to the fair and regular elections.
Elections aim at providing the power to select the one by whom we want to be governed. Looking the present statistics, are we really choosing the adroit body to govern us or the candidates are besmirch to the constitution, the elections, and the Indian freedom struggle?

The country is struggling hard to make its mark as the emerging leader in terms of economy and development but the blemish to its own image is the gigantic number of abet and aberrant leaders having the heinous charges of rape, theft, dacoity, murder, extortion etc.

On 28th August 1997, the Election Commissioner Krishnamurthy made a startling annunciation. According to him, of 1, 37,752 candidates who had contested the General Election to the Lok Sabha in 1996, nearly 1500 had criminal records.
Moreover, the number of candidates with criminal records among our ‘elected representatives’ is steadily increasing. In 2004 Lok Sabha, there were 128 MPs with criminal background; and in 2009 the number rose to 150.
UP hits the list with 520 such candidates, succeeded by Bihar with the count of 350. The eleventh Lok Sabha reportedly had 40 members, who had criminal background, 700 MLA's out of 4722 in the country then were involved in crimi¬nal cases and trials were pending against them in 25 states and 2 union territories.

In the special session of Lok Sabha, on the auspicious occasion of completion of 50 years of Independence, the house passed a resolution on 31st August 1997 saying that, "more especially, all political parties shall undertake all such steps that will attain the objective of ridding of our polity of criminalization or its influence". But it just remained a resolution without implication
If we quote some notorious leaders, the picture will decipher a colorfully tainted image of not just one party but several parties -
Mohammad Sahabuddin was elected to four successive terms in the Indian Parliament from 1996-2008 from Siwan constituency Bihar on RJD ticket. In 1996, Sahabuddin was named as a Minister of State for the Home Ministry in the H.D. Deve Gowda government. He is currently serving a life sentence for kidnapping with intent to murder and as many as 34 cases of serious crime are pending against him.
Mukhtar Ansari won the Mau seat in the Uttar Pradesh Elections, 2007 as an Independent while lodged initially at Ghazipur jail.

Arun Gawli is one of the most notorious criminal turned politicians who is based in Mumbai. With his operations center at Dagdi Chawl in Bayculla he now enjoys the position of MLA. However, he has not been convicted of any crimes but has spent almost ten years in prison.

Shibu Soren is another politician who was the chief minister of Jharkhand and was found guilty of murder of his secretary.
Raja Bhaiya is a SP leader who has royal ancestry; however he is a criminal and has spent considerable amount of time in Jail under the POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities) Act.

Atiq Ahmad was a member of Lok Sabha from the Phulpur Lok Sabha Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He is currently in prison facing trial in 35 criminal cases including several cases of murder. In the Indian general elections, 2009, he was allowed to contest in election since he is yet to be convicted in any case.

Now, Lalu Prasad Yadav who  was accused and charged in Fodder scam was sent to jail and had to resign his CM"s seat which was given to wife Rabri Devi. But Congress led UPA made him Railway Minister. So a criminal remained India's minister. This shows there are flaws in our laws and our corrupt leaders misuse and abuse the process of law to help their allies in politics. There is utter and urgent need to amend the defective constitution such that only honest are allowed to rule.

A case started in 1996 and sentence to be yet delivered on 3 Oct but the Court has finally declared these accused as convicts in this case What away these people have developed the systems to delay the results to such an extent so that the people involved as well the victims are tired out of these long drawn cases 17 years and would have yet been running had it been not struck down by the SC .The maximum sentence for each convicts and their assets confiscated sooner and made to honour all the guilt done on the Society.

The radical cause of increasing criminalization of politics is nexus of muscle power, money power and politics. Criminalization of politics is actually a mysterious enigma.
The statutory limit is- Rs 15 lakhs for a Lok Sabha seat (depending on the constituency and the number of voters), Rs 3 to 6 lakhs for state legislatures (depending on the area), and Rs 75,000 for municipal corporations.


The political parties and the candidates appraise and spend a huge amount compared to the meagre limits. They incur the capital through funds and donations. The questions pings, who furnishes such funds and donations? These funds generally come from underworld or the business bizarre. After becoming the MP or MLA they become altruist and venerate to the supporting factors before the elections and victory.
The criminals and mafia thus dwell and flourish under the aegis of these MPs and MLAs. This nexus is the real shoot in arm to the criminalization of politics or in other words ‘Bemired politics’. Indian politics is not a philanthropic activity instead it has become a means to accrue power by the avid and abhorrent leaders.
On May 2, 2002, the Supreme Court gave a historic ruling following public interest litigation by an NGO.


It ruled that every candidate, contesting an election to Parliament, State Legislatures or Municipal Corporation, has to declare the following along with the application for his/her candidature: 1) A Candidate’s criminal charges , 2) The Candidate’s financial records, 3) The candidate’s educational qualifications.
If the candidate fails to file any of the above three declarations, the Returning Officer will have the right to reject his nomination papers. The Supreme Court has ruled that all the three declarations will have to be true.


The Election Commission had sent a notification on June 28, 2002, to all State Election Officers with a view to enforcing it. The Supreme Court's thrust has been that the people and the voters have the right to know about the candidate's criminal record, assets and liabilities and educational qualifications. The Returning Of¬ficer has to publish these declarations for the voters' knowledge.


The Election Commission under T S Krishnamurthy proposed in its 2004 report that Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 should be amended to disqualify candidates accused of an offence punishable by imprisonment of 5 years or more even when trial is pending, given that the Court has framed charges against the person. In the report the Commission addresses the possibility that such a provision could be misused in the form of motivated cases by the ruling party.
To prevent such misuse, the Commission suggested a compromise whereas only cases filed prior to six months before an election would lead to disqualification of a candidate. In addition, the Commission proposed that Candidates found guilty by a Commission of Enquiry should stand disqualified.


The above stated reformative measures are just a drop in bucket. A complete renaissance is needed to clean the politics, the gravity of matter can be deciphered with the fact that almost all political parties are up a blind allay to win elections.
In a TV show an affluent politician had said “people say that politics is not a good career option for amenable youngsters. If good, flawless, educated youngsters would not come to politics then be ready to be ruled by the aberrant leaders.”
Silence signifies our acquiesce.


Many commission and committees have been framed for amelioration of politics. But this is just a political gimmick. We are the choosers then why not to come in the forefront and vote against the candidates possessing the criminal allegations. Why are we waiting for a reformer, an august to help us get rid of this circumstance?
The number of political parties in India has been phenomenally increasing. The mushroom growth of political parties is not the result of improvement in political standard; nor is it because more qualified and service-minded persons are entering the field of politics, determined to serve the country and its people. On the contrary, it is a definite indication of political standards going down to abysmal levels. The field of politics nowadays does not attract selfless gentlemen, eager to use their expertise and time for nation-building; it attracts rowdies and criminals with proven record of hooliganism, who want to become rich quickly and dominate the officials and law-abiding citizens. Subject to rare exceptions, in short, the politics in India has become a profitable business for rowdies.


The political parties do not pay attention to inculcate noble political values and principles of citizenship in the people. They do not promote patriotism and commitment to nation-building. They do not want to unite the people of nation by stressing the importance of harmonious living. On the contrary, they perpetuate the differences among the people and make full use of those differences for creating conflicts among them.


The decency ,decorum and sobriety once considered inseparable from the public offices are thrown to the wind; these elected representatives would stoop down to any level, for achieving their personal political aims or the interests of their parties. From village panchayat meetings to Parliament, the common behavior includes selfish quarrel, cheap arguments, disrespect to authorities, violation of healthy conventions, and waste of time.


The main reason for such downslide in political standard is the absence of reasonable restrictions to formation of political parties and admission of members to the political parties. For example, in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 369 parties contested. And, totally 8070 candidates represented these parties. Out of 369 parties, 333 parties did not win even in a single constituency. Even among the remaining 36 parties, 19 parties won only in three or less number of seats! Why should there be such a large number of non-serious political parties and candidates, making a mockery of the election process?
In all political parties, these criminals are given red-carpeted welcome; because their ‘services’ are needed to these parties frequently for carrying on unlawful activities during the bandhs, strikes, rallies etc., organized by them. When such criminals become political leaders, they seek to achieve whatever they want without caring for rules and regulations; they would not hesitate to adopt criminal methods for attaining their goals; whether it is winning an election or elimination of rivals. For these hard core criminals, the offences like threatening officials, kidnapping and even murder do not appear bad.

The British followed the policy of ‘divide and rule’; after India became independent, our politicians have become past masters of the art of creating groups and inciting them against one another. They want to fish in the troubled waters and when the water is placid, they trouble it to achieve their selfish ends.
The corner-stone of democracy is objective discussion of the public issues by the people. The representatives of the people are expected to encourage such discussions, generate valuable ideas and take decisions in the larger interests of the people. But even the democratic forums like legislative assemblies and Parliament are not used for sincere discussions.
Political leaders can never be serious about change in the election system because in its present form it is tailor-stitched to suit the wrong persons reaching the legislature. Effective poll-reforms and strict rules for those in legislature are rather of prime importance than the much-talked about Lokpal.

If these are not affected to prevent wrong elements entering legislature to misuse the system, then institution of Lokpal may collapse under excessive complaints. Lokpal is just a curative medicine for acute disease of corruption while poll reforms and stricter rules are preventive medicines for the chronic disease of corruption in the nation's politics.

In an event that could bring a landmark change in Indian politics and governance, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to respond to a proposition that the law allowing Members of Parliament (MP) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLA) to continue despite being sentenced to more than two years' jail term upon conviction in a criminal case was discriminatory and encouraged criminalization of politics.
The PIL which was filed by an advocate Lily Thomas contended that an anomalous situation existed under the Representation of People Act, where one provision debarred a person from contesting election for six years on conviction in a criminal case with two years imprisonment while the other allowed MPs and MLAs to continue if they filed an appeal within three months of the judgment of conviction.
Senior Advocate Fali S Nairman, who appeared as amicus cure in the PIL cited several judgments of the apex court on this point and said that in one case, it had held that the presumption of innocence of a person ended after a trial court convicted him of an offence.

The Election Commission is powerless in preventing criminals from contesting elections. The Representation of People Act allows it to debar candidates convicted of certain crimes, but cannot prevent those under trial or whose appeals from their earlier convictions are pending for disposal before the higher court for multiple murders or rape or corruption or theft from the public exchequer from representing the people in the country’s highest legislative forums. There have been a number of cases where persons under trial have contested elections, while in jail and won. Unfortunately, no political party has taken any concrete step to curb this malpractice.


It is not difficult to see why political parties put up criminals as candidates. Given a situation in which the sanctity of elections is being increasingly undermined by rigging and booth-capturing, a criminal with muscle power has greater chances of winning than a clean and decent individual without such ‘capabilities’. And most often criminals do win, which is why they are increasingly present in the country’s representative institutions. The consequences of the trend, if allowed to continue unchecked, hardly deserve an elaboration and are seen in the increasing criminalization of the process of governance with ministers, legislators, bureaucrats and unscrupulous businessmen combining to plunder public funds and prey on the public.

In fact a new dimension has been added to the process by the criminalization of bureaucracy and the police. What makes the situation particularly dangerous is that a criminalized administration poses a serious threat to the country’s security even as Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism continues unabated. This is clearly reflected in the fact that agents of the Inter Service Intelligence [ISI] have no difficulty in getting passports and driving licenses and carrying out their deadly assignments in India. De-criminalization of politics should be the main issue in all elections in the country. While political parties have a serious responsibility not to put up criminals as candidates, voters have an equally strong responsibility of defeating candidates with a criminal record. 


Lastly, the Election Commission has taken noticeable measures to check criminalization of politics. It has already banned convicted people from contesting elections to the state legislature or parliament, at the same time; it has asked all criminally-charged persons to disclose all the charges they face, in the nomination paper. This information will be easily made available to the public. Cases pending against politicians should be settled as quickly as possible. It is found that cases against them remain pending for long and they keep winning elections while the cases remain pending. Later, with their ministerial power, they manipulate the cases in their favour. Withdrawal of criminal charges against some tainted ministers of the present government is a case in point.


This evil of Criminalization of Politics calls for special attention of the people because the subject revolves around the vested interests of politicians of all hues; as such the people can never hope that the politicians would take any initiative to rectify this evil. The prevailing trend is spreading like cancer. It is nullifying all the constitutional safeguards of democracy; that is, it is spoiling bureaucracy by making it partial; it thwarts press; and even threatens judiciary; and thus is destroying the foundation of democracy. So the people should wake up at once and force the political parties to mend their ways.

Let’s pledge to vote, vote against the criminal bugs who have percolated in the roots of politics of the country which has an aureate history of freedom struggle through ahimsa. Let’s fight another freedom struggle.

SIDDHARTHA SHANKAR MISHRA,

SAMBALPUR, ODISHA