Bengal Chronicle

Odisha – It’s time for Parivartana!

London: Aparajita Sarangi, former 1995 IAS cadre, has joined hands with BJP and entered the political arena of Odisha with a loud and clear message that it’s time for Odisha to change and move beyond its associated tagline of poverty and backwardness. Her message intends to awaken the soul of this state and demand what it truly deserves. The famous words of Biju Patnaik about Odisha being a rich state with poor people holds true even today. The current ruling government, BJD, led by Naveen Patnaik in spite of being in power for close to two decades seems to have done little to change that. A closer analysis of this state would display a lack of concerted efforts by the current government to unlock the vast potential of its land, resources and people.

The key issues plaguing the state are:

Average Crop Yields (ton/ha) 2016-17

Crop Odisha Andhra Pradesh Madhya Pradesh Telangana West Bengal India
Paddy 1.49 3.47 1.75 2.91 2.89 2.40
Pulses 0.55 0.30 0.94 0.77 0.97 0.79
Wheat 1.33 na 2.98 1.40 2.68 3.20
Potato 12.00 14.92 20.07 25.96 26.16 21.51


These metrics highlight the state government’s incompetency and inability to address the following:

The various schemes of BJD including the latest KALIA scheme are welfare schemes which provide short term relief in terms of interest free loans or short term financial aid but fail to equip and develop the sector to be sustainable in the long term.  Navnirman Krushak Sangathan (NKS), an outfit fighting for the farmers’  cause, vehemently condemns these schemes. They also stress the need for pensions and crop insurance for farmers which the state government has plainly ignored.

In various measures of Human Development Index (HDI) Odisha remains in the bottom five among other states and union territories of India and specifically the mineral resource rich districts like Keonjhar, Koraput, Sundargarh, Jajpur, etc. display lower levels of HDI. While minerals worth thousands and thousands of crores of rupees  are  being extracted from these lands, the sad state of education, healthcare, infrastructure portrays a different picture. When the countries in the middle east discovered oil and natural gas, their economy changed and their citizens who were originally tribals benefited from it    . But the tribals of Odisha haven’t seen their livelihood change. Hence they oppose the mega investments and developmental projects. They are rightly questioning at whose cost and for whose development are these projects being undertaken  . The government of the day has had a mandate  for close to two decades but has failed

  1. to be a conduit and allay the apprehensions about industrialization and development
  2. to develop a sustainable development framework which takes into consideration their socio-ecological and cultural concerns. The locals should be able to participate and benefit from the mining resources.
  3. To value add on the vast resources found by encouraging manufacturing set-ups which would provide more employment and make the GDSP (gross domestic state product) more robust.

This inefficiency in the government was clearly illustrated when it failed to translate big FDI intents of POSCO, ArcelorMittal and Uttam Galva into flourishing projects that would have improvised and modernised large mining parts of Odisha.

The Make in Odisha initiative in 2016 was expected to garner investments close to Rs 2 lakh crores with an intended   potential of creation of 1.4 lakh jobs. Big industry stalwarts in mines and minerals sector, petroleum, food processing, tourism and hospitality, etc had promised big investments in the state as part of this initiative. The promises made have failed to translate to concrete actions in the intended direction. The CMIE-BSE employment survey shows Odisha’s unemployment levels have worsened to 6.7% in Q1 2018 from 4.7% the previous quarter. There are two other factors that contribute to the severity of these figures – one, unemployment rate among jobseekers with no education stands at 18.5% vs 1.27% nationally and two, the unemployment rate worsens with higher education. The people of a resourceful state like Odisha shouldn’t be looking to move to other states to make a living and the fact that they are underlines the government’s inability to make Odisha a productive state. In November 2018, the state government came back with another Make in Odisha initiative with larger commitments and job creation potential. Such announcements and planning are now being perceived as publicity stunts with no on-ground implementations.

In such a scenario, BJP is making inroads as was evident in the recent panchayat polls in early 2017. Its vote share increased to 36% from a mere 4.2% in 2012. BJD on the other hand got decimated from 76.5% in 2012 to 54% in the recent polls. BJP’s significant improvement was attributed to a lot of ground work being done in expanding its foothold in various constituencies in recent years as opposed to BJD’s Naveen Patnaik being inconspicuous in action noticeably for the 2017 Panchayat elections.

Dharmendra Pradhan, who orchestrated BJP’s win of 31/40 seats in Bihar in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, is at the forefront of this change. He is now a regular fixture in Odisha and is actively involved in party activities like engaging with the electorate and building relationships. He is the man responsible for implementing the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). The implementation of these schemes have borne fruit particularly in the Kosala region in the panchayat elections where it had a majority vote share of 53.5% versus BJD’s 33%. Kosala is considered one of the poorest regions in the country.

BJP’s position in Odisha has been strengthened further by the recent addition of Aparajita Sarangi who has a reputed household name of honesty, capability and toughness in Odisha. She had demonstrated commendable work when in various positions and capacities in Odisha be it as a director of school and mass education department or as a director of Mission Shakti, a pet project of Naveen Patnaik directed towards women and child welfare development or as a commissioner of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation wherein the face of Bhubaneswar was changed drastically. Aparajita with her blogs, interviews and interactions with people is making the right noises which people can resonate with. BJP looks tall and strong with her addition.

To conclude, BJP could well stand to benefit from Odisha’s strong need for “Parivartana” today as:

People of Odisha will be the driving force of this wave of “parivartana” – a wave towards development and thus unleash its true potential.

Image courtesy : Pixabay 

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