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Hope Generated in Patkura for progress is a hope to make Odisha Poverty Free

By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 17, Jul 2019, 11:42 am IST | UPDATED: 21, Jul 2019, 11:50 am IST

Hope Generated in Patkura for progress is a hope to make Odisha Poverty Free

It was educative to witness several meetings  in villages of Patkura area in Kendrapada district. Some of the meetings were hugely attended by ordinary people. Organization of special and separate meetings of women organized by BJD in many areas became distinguishing  features hardly witnessed in any other State. After visiting large parts of Patkura MLA constituency I got an unmistakable impression that BJD is certainly in a dominant position for winning election being held on 20th July. BJP is  occupying a distant second position. Congress is hardly visible. Its banners and posters are not there at all. 

It was sad to know that ten to fifteen years back many parts of Patkura located near Luna, Karandia  and Chitroptala rivers used to be inundated and surrounded from all sides by flood water and become islands for several days. It was all the more painful to note that those villages surrounded by water remained disconnected from rest of the world due to absence of  bridges on those rivers. As road connectivity was non existent people used to remain cut off whenever flood water encircled their villages. There was a time when  people did not find any boat to go from one side of the river to other side   they tightly held  the tail of a buffaloes  which would swim in the surging water and enable them to cross the river. When I asked if the men  holding the tails of the buffalos by chance lose  their grips  on the tails or the tails slip out of their hands  then how would they cross the river. The reply was that the men used to  be swept away by the flooded water losing  life. Ordinary People told me that all the bridges over the rivers and all the roads linking villages have been built during the last ten to fifteen years under the leadership of Shri Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha. 

Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, the local MLA told me that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik used to visit the  site at the time of construction of bridges and monitored the progress of construction meticulously. It was because of such monitoring at the CM level that people got bridges over rivers and got connected to Kendrapada located a few kilometers away,Many people told me that because of those bridges villagers could visit Kendrapada which for them was as distant as Bhubaneswar or Cuttack. I was stunned to know that people had no proper means to cross the river except through boats and when boats were not readily available they used to be stranded on one side of the river. Only after Naveen Patnaik took over as Chief Minister bridge building and road construction  was taken up  on a priority basis and people say that it is because of quality infrastructure provided to them that they would always stand by him and vote for BJD. It is rather intriguing that Kendrapada which elected such stalwarts as late Shri Biju Patnaik, Rabi Ray and Surendranath Dwivedi lacked basic infrastructural facilities for communication in its adjoining areas till the first decade of the twenty first century. 

After hearing all these I recalled a line from the report of the Brookings Institute, a major think tank of the USA. It prepared a report on road communication system in India during 1950s. It observed that one of the major factors  behind underdevelopment and backwardness of large parts of India was absence of road communication. It summed up in a nice manner by noting that “Distance and isolation leads to stagnation”. In eliminating distance and ending isolation of Patkura area through bridges and roads the stagnation of people has been put an end to. The area which is close to Cuttack and Bhubaneswar remained so isolated for so long due to absence of road communication stuns me beyond belief. A much respected leader of BJD Shri Sashi Bhusan Behera who is now Kendrapada MLA gives credit to leadership of Shri Naveen Patnaik for linking villages of the region through network of bridges and roads. Here again one notes the impact of leadership in executing work on a timely manner with tremendous effect. It reminds me Mahatma Gandhi’s articulation in an interview of 1930s with Louis Fisher. When Louis Fisher asked Gandhi as to what he would do if he got a chance to wield power he famously said that he would build good and fine roads which would be useful both for men and beast and link villages of India. 

The transformation caused in Patkura by bridges and roads is palpable. In fact the transformation represented by T in five Ts -Transparency, Technology, Time, Team spirit and Transformation- recently stressed by Chief Minister during his interaction with his Council of Ministers can be truly felt in all parts of the State and I felt it deeply in Patkura after widely traveling many interior parts. The stagnation of the area has ended and there is sensation of progress and development. The women in SHGs display that confidence in ample measure. One village lady in Balarampur told that she is now hardly dependent on her husband or in laws for money as she herself is earning some thing by using loans given to SHGs.It was a revealing information from a lady who hails from a humble background with  no notable educational qualification. It is an indication of pro women policies adopted to empower them. Since the Patkura area is predominantly dependent on agriculture it requires a pro women approach. In fact the statement of the lady of self help group that she earns some thing for herself and so is hardly dependent on her husband and in laws for access to financial resources is an affirmation of the statement of eminent agricultural scientist professors M S Swaminathan that a green revolution can be made ever green revolution by making it pro nature, pro poor and pro women. 

Mingling with such ordinary people and women one gets an impression that the seeds of transformation sown  have started showing good results and these need to be taken forward. It does not mean that there are no challenges and problems. It is rather painful to see so many mud and thatched houses in the area prone to flood and other natural disasters. The area is not connected by rail net work. It is unacceptable that after so many decades of attainment of independence of India Kendrapada located hardly 60 kilometers away from Cuttack is not connected by train lines. Recently there was a trial run of an rail engine on a track built a few years back. It gives the hope that the region would be connected by railway network. Be that as it may we need to be mindful of the change and transformation in Patkura caused by quality infrastructure, women’s empowerment and other positive social and economic changes in the region. 

We need to build on them and further enhance the momentum of progress. The large rivers which the region have contain water throughout the year. There is fertile land in the region. Micro hydro electric projects may be established by using the advantageous geographical features of the rivers. It would generate electricity and enable people to harness water for other productive uses. Plenty of water available can be used more meaningfully for the benefit of people.  Dr. B. R. Ambedkar holding water portfolio  as a Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council  had addressed a meeting in Cuttack in 1945 and said that lack of water conservation practices in Odisha had resulted in not using its huge water resources and, therefore, the people suffered backwardness. Better socio economic transformation of Patkura along with establishment of micro hydroelectric projects in rivers are doable. The progress of Patkura generates optimism that CM’s vision of making Odisha poverty free by 2024 is now an economic possibility. It reminds me the words of Mohammed Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. He while receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace for his contributions to eradicate poverty through micro credit for women said that poverty in twenty first century should not be there in society but in museums. CM’s bold vision of making Odisha poverty free is in tune with the vision of seeing poverty in museum and not in society. 

Now Odisha’s example is cited at the global level for saving lives of people from natural disasters. A day before Fani cyclone hit the coastal regions of Odisha in first week of May 2019 one and half million people were shifted to safe places in twenty four hours and precious lives were saved. Only 46 lives were lost by the disaster which was considered the worst after the 1999 super cyclone which claimed more than 10,000 lives. New York Times wrote in an article next day that rest of the world should learn from a poor State of India to save lives from natural disasters. In spite of poverty and economic hardships the State of Odisha faces,  its leadership represented by Shri Naveen Patnaik has shown to the world the art of governance to save life. Poverty has not incapacitated the ability to save life and build quality infrastructure. Rather the leadership is now conjuring up the vision to make Odisha poverty free. It is an audacity of hope. It is also an economic possibility. The way the isolation and stagnation of Patkura were put an end to by building bridges and roads generates hope that poverty could be eradicated from the State. A separate agriculture budget for Odisha has been presented  since 2013-14. In doing so it has set a trend in the country. Shri Rahul Gandhi, then Congress President,  had promised to bring a separate Kisan budget for the country after getting elected in 2019 elections to form Government. Before he could do so Odisha has shown the way. It has enabled Odisha to give a new direction  in dealing with agriculture and improving productivity. By development of small industries using local resources  we can create indigenous base for a sustainable economy without causing pollution and environmental degradation. It would be a good step to make Odisha a trillion dollar economy. The application of five Ts- Transparency, Technology, Team management, Time and Transformation- will make it possible. Odisha will show the way. The hope generated in Patkura by putting an end to its isolation and stagnation constitutes a huge hope for the whole State to make it poverty free. 

  • The author has served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure as Director in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressesd above are in his personal capacity.