By Charudutta Panigrahi*
Progress lies not in enhancing what is,
But in advancing toward what will be – Khalil Gibran
We as a state, are fast approaching our centenary and in 2036 we should be celebrating “nothing like Odisha”. The principle tenet of Odia life would be optimism and that’s always a hard choice and the brave choice. We were the first state in our country to have been created on the basis of language and has also been much underestimated over the years for it being poor and repeatedly thrown back to the poverty trap by natural disasters. In spite of the reversals or the laggard growth, Odias maintain an undiminished civility: act modestly, are piety driven, and are firmly peace loving. Quite akin to what Thomas Keating calls the contemplative centring.
But this scarce life force needs to be sustained amongst the next generations and am sure, very soon gross happiness index would substitute gross domestic product and Odisha should be the lab in India to develop GHI. But platitudes alone won’t help.
The inner contentment has been crucial in shaping our state character over the last eight decades and more. This much coveted life skill should be our unique possession and our pride for the rest of our existence. We could choose to remain self-effacing but not apologetic about our comity. Nature and nurture together propel us to socio economic development. If Odisha today is the education hub, the sports capital and represents youth energy, we should utilise this as an opportunity to cultivate both nature and nurture. Nature is pre-wiring and is believed to be influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors while nurture is the influence of external factors after conception i.e. the product of exposure, experience, and learning on an individual. The social peace that exists in Odisha should be the bedrock of human resources development in India, the soft power capital.
Let’s promise to envision “Odisha at 100”,widely to ensure holistic development of the State by 2036, the 100 year of Odisha formation. An advanced and empowered Odisha needs to be the sole objective of our civil society. Odisha has about one NGO for every 400 population. Annual Status of Education Report (Rural)-2017 shows 15.4 percent of youths in Khordha district aged 14-18 years are out of any formal education. In the 17-18 years age group, 30 percent youths were out of formal education system in the district. Khordha is among the top-10 districts in the country where a high proportion of youths have no access to education. Khordha district is the epicentre of Odisha and the seat of the government and it is here that 30 percent youth energy is wasted. About 87 per cent of youths could name New Delhi as capital of India and 82 per cent could name their State as ‘Odisha’. But, I am concerned that about 46 per cent could identify their State on the map of India. Yet over 85 per cent youths in Khordha district have enrolled themselves in school or colleges.
I see a huge gap in the civil society’s participation in the state development. We cannot use the government always as a crutch for development. Less government and more governance is the dictum for future growth and citizen ownership. NGOs cannot limit their work only to time bound, funded projects. Volunteerism needs to grow and not be restricted only to disasters and natural calamities. Odisha has been making attempts to make volunteer action more effective.
The question to ask today is what have I done for the state?
I am confident that volunteerism can bring the youth closer to the mainstream development of the state. With internet, social mobilisation and youth networking is much faster, less cumbersome and comes virtually free of cost. Social media can help make Odisha even more close knit and progressive. However, in India, the state of Odisha had the largest number of villages, 11,000 (in 2017) without mobile telephone connectivity. The state has a total of 51,565 villages, across 30 districts and hence about 1/5th villages are without connectivity. More mobile towers have been put in the last couple of years and NITI Aayog is taking concrete steps. Without connectivity, development in the present day context sounds hollow. Citizens there are deprived of various e-governance services. In the districts of Gajapati, Kandhamal, Malkangiri and Rayagada, the percentage is high at 59 percent, 70 percent, 71 percent and 63 percent, respectively. But all villages in the districts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Balasore, Bhadrak and Jharsuguda are fully covered under mobile connectivity. The (telecom) operators should be sensitised by the government and the civil society to operate in these areas with a subsidised model as it is not remunerative enough, return on investment. But the state can take the help of the ‘Odisha Mobile Towers, Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) and Telecom Infrastructure Policy, 2017′ and influence telecom business. The fees structures, cost of laying of OFC and installations need to be liberalised and the process of application should be streamlined.
Deep rooted, equitable development needs intense involvement from all sections of the civil society. The ‘democracy of development’ could steer the state of “equanimity” to the super highway of growth by 2036. The civil society has to design and evoke a narrative which goes beyond a numerical growth figure – it is about quality of life rather than mere statistics. Odisha could be the pioneer in ‘economic nationalism’ and be model for others to replicate. In place of intense hard data only, we could invite deep dive analysis from experts from various sectors – agriculture, sports, education, health technology, tourism, tribal, culture, social development, films and many more. Today we lack in social congregations aimed at collective work for state development. Mere imagining development is not development. It’s hard work based on optimism, a belief that tomorrow would be better.
As I am writing these two mountaineers from Odisha – Kusha Arlaba of Koraput and Lipika Seth of Bargarh have scaled Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. They took 5 days to reach a peak of 5895 meters above sea level and hoisted the tricolour. Odisha would not take even a century to demonstrate that a rich heritage can be the propeller to a luminous future. History, politics, economics, social dynamics have shaped Odisha in a way which is probably not quite akin to many other states of India. Much before the formation of the state, Odisha had international maritime trade with south Asian countries, was the first state to be formed on linguistic grounds without rancour & violence, is the state known for time tested civility of its people despite natural disasters ravaging life frequently. National & international businesses are aware of Odisha’s worth in its rich soil and subsoil. While the bountiful natural resources and reserves are with the tribals, they are the worst sufferers of apathy in the entire development process. The richest is the poorest. Do we continue like this?
Economic liberalisation need not be only a story of private sector success and continuing struggle by the state to provide decent public goods – basic education, health, police, courts judiciary, roads, safety nets. These public goods enable the poor to catch up with the rich. Many believe that the most equalising form of investment is good education, creating human capital. Human capital is considered even more important than the economic capital. The state/public education has remained dismal and hence spending more would have no impact on the outcomes. The ASER report also suggests that school children are close to functional illiteracy. Can we not factor in more creative curriculum in the school education to help build the students’ character and allow them more room to give vent to their latent creativity? Why should they still follow the rote education system, which would never benefit them? We should invest in education and this doesn’t imply creating education factories in the name of moribund public education.
What is the law of harvest? The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny –James Allen
The Odia diaspora, across the globe can do wonders but nothing substantial has come so far. Many opine that Odisha is comparable to the 20 countries at the bottom of the HDI list of UNDP. Had Odisha been a separate country, then it would have been placed between the Central African Republic and Eritrea at the bottom of the list. They feel that under Human Development Indices, Odisha needs to make sustainable and sincere efforts in addressing Consumption Poverty, Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Under Five Mortality, Institutional Delivery and Primary Education. The experts feel that there is an urgent requirement to formulate District Specific Development Policies in Odisha as Human Development Index (HDI) in some of the districts is lagging behind. The State Administration need to go for specific Development Policies and Plans for the Districts. Because District Level Planning will help out the backward areas in the State more concretely and also contribute majorly to India’s efforts in meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Districts like Angul, Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Khordha and Cuttack have experienced higher level of HDI. But Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Balangir are the districts still reeling under lower level HDI, after almost two decades of HDI based planning and interventions. Proportion of multidimensional poverty is low in Khordha, Cuttack and Puri whereas it is high in Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, and Kalahandi the backward districts need district-specific Planning which would result in substantial improvement in HDI. Odisha is not limited only to Cuttack, Bhubaneswar or Puri. Development needs to be equitable and democratic. Strengthening the Public Health Care system with adequate supply of drugs and diagnostic services is an urgent need and introducing purchasing mechanism (procurement remains a cumbersome process) to enhance efficiency will improve service delivery mechanism. The budget allocation for health is likely to increase by about 11% from Rs 6160 crore in 2018-19. The state by 2036 would be implementing major initiatives to strengthen trauma and emergency care across public and private sectors. Under Ayushman Bharat Scheme, Health and wellness centers will cater to people’s primary health care needs. These centers will provide comprehensive healthcare including for non communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. These centers should also be providing free essential drugs and diagnostic services.
Dongrias of Rayagada have not yet received their due as citizens of the state and are still clueless about development. They are sandwiched between avaricious and capricious interests of the state, industry and the ‘mainstream’. How far can we keep them ‘deviously’ away from basic amenities of life? Nothing changes amidst shrewd data manipulations. No electricity, no water, no food, no dreams for youths, no education and still the shrill of “Happy New Year 2019” in social media. Do you plan to continue in this imbecile way till 2036? A new study to evaluate neonatal and under-five mortality at district level and state level in India, indicates that in Rayagada the mortality rate is 141.7, probably the highest in the country. Kanduru of Malipada using a mobile phone is no indicator of economic growth. Inequality and poverty have not declined for him and his family of 4. The forests are dwindling, the forest dwellers are perishing without any skills, migration of the strong, proud tribal youths is increasing by the day. We are pushing them to the polluted cities, bursting at the seams, struggling with civic amenities and order. Raw and guileless youth energy is being systematically sapped. The state has to take charge. Equity matters for development. It is the soul of development. It is important for its own sake and for higher growth. If personal, rural-urban and regional disparities are reduced, growth will increase. We need to define equity in terms of empowerment and increase in the participation of the poor, so that there will be no trade-off between growth and equity.
Voltaire had said that “Injustice in the end produces independence”. I would say, inequality in the end produces independence. Inequality has to perish by 2036, in Odisha.
In cities like Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Berhampur, Sambalpur with high density of population would go for multi level parking lots to decongest major areas of the cities. Besides roads, footpaths in the market would also be repaired as part of the decongestion process. It is better to have the projects executed on a PPP model mostly in these cities located next to the main bus stand in the city or the old city, the market is popular because unlike the malls and the supermarkets products there are cheaper and more in variety. There are parking lot for visitors but those remain mostly empty due to poor maintenance or distance from the main hub. Instead visitors park their vehicles wherever they find space, leading to chaos and congestion. The Smart Cities could have digital on-the-spot geotagging attendance system for cops on traffic duty. The high tech system is expected to check attendance related irregularities and ensure that traffic cops are present at their assigned locations, not just on paper. There could be the move to introduce weekly offs for traffic cops to reduce stress. At present traffic inspectors move from one spot to another to take manual attendance of these cops. The system is vulnerable to misuse.
Time is always right to do what is right. – Martin Luther King
As India has finalised an exclusive Rs 5650 Cr military infrastructure development plan spread over 10 years for the strategically located Andaman & Nicobar archipelago, Odisha by 2036, ie. another 17 years, is expected to be straddled in our national defence plan. Odisha would soon be the place for stationing of warships, aircraft drones, missile batteries and infantry soldiers.
Rapid economic growth and the use of technology for social sector programmes would help Odisha make a significant dent in extreme poverty in the state.
“The government of India has emphasised on the role of science for building a new and prosperous India by connecting science to society, from school students to scientists, from basic science to technology, from technology to innovation to start-ups, from agriculture to artificial intelligence, from atom to astrophysics and by focusing on our needs and priorities in health, agriculture, food, energy, water, education and transport for the security and prosperity of the nation.”
Digitisation has touched every aspect of human life and in Odisha it is expected to alter how organisations look at business sectors, markets, service their customers and ideate new businesses in the next 15-20 years. Digitisation, on which the country lays emphasis on, can save time and expenses as a panacea, while enhancing their extend and effectiveness. The three-fold transformation of consumers, government and industry would have far reaching economic consequences. The number of technologies evolving, be it the internet of things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics would touch every sector, reimagining how goods and services would be delivered, specifically in the logistics sector. This would impact lives in Odisha like never before and would herald what is now being termed as Industry 4.0. I foresee the usage of advanced technologies in Odisha by 2036, specifically in information and telecommunication systems, digital solutions and services, infrastructure systems, industrial systems like water, oil and gas supply and management, to transportation and urban development solutions. Digitisation is radical and it will bring in the much-needed inclusiveness and true social transformation in the complex social dynamics in Odisha.
We have been focussing on the macros all these while and while that continues, by 2036, we would also have the micro or the bottom taken care of. Experts suggest that there should be selected districts depending on specific economic criteria and the districts will get special attention in ease of doing business. It is almost a certainty that the $2.6 trillion economy of India will scale the $5 trillion milestone over the next seven – nine years and would touch the $10 trillion mark by the turn of 2035. New industrial policy linking global supply chain is required and would be mutually beneficial by 2036. And the share of Odisha in the national economy should exceed 20 percent. I hope to see an industrial policy in operations, which would be aiming at developing global value chains and boosting Odisha’s and hence India’s manufacturing competitiveness. By 2036, Odisha with its hugely improved infrastructure by then, should help India develop mutually beneficial value chain and supply chains.
One important aspect of the industrial policy should be the focus on the districts as a part of a bottom up approach for boosting growth. Each district should be responsible as a unit of development and the focus should be on one district at a time and increase its GDP growth by three-four percentage points annually, and this in turn would help increase the SGDP and the national GDP. Accordingly, the state by 2036, should identify districts, map their baseline of their economy and will work on specifics to increase their economic output. The measures being undertaken to push growth at district levels are aimed at achieving this high target (of a national $10 trillion economy by 2035-36) earlier. While the country is now targeting to increase the annual FDI inflows to $100 billion, I see a great opportunity for Odisha to augment through the development of its select districts. Odisha has now already been discussed as a focal state/region for the joint efforts by India and South Korea towards developing a dynamic world trading platform.
It is necessary for Odisha to increase its focus on services and merchandise exports. A vibrant capital market is essential both for mobilising capital as well as make it work effectively such that it delivers maximum returns for the economy. And we as part of the civil society of Odisha should be an integral part of the planning and execution process.
Farmers (and crops) without borders is the future of food and a strong agricultural sector in Odisha should be transparent, adaptable and unified, and it should recognize that many of the crops we grow today might have originated elsewhere. Agricultural sectors around the world are sharing information like never before. Hence the perfect variety of seed these days will likely contain traits from China, India, Argentina and more. Odisha has not been accentuating long term structural changes which would make agriculture more profitable, sustainable and resilient. We must increase the resilience of our agriculture and make it a much more rewarding profession for our farmers. By 2036 we expect to have stable farm packages to tackle the debt crisis in the agriculture sector amid projected reversals with a spate of farm loan waivers and rising distress in the sector. Agriculture should be our prime focus, in Odisha even in 2036 as it is the backbone of our economy and is the primary source of livelihood for over 60 percent of the population. The civil society hopes to see farmers diversify into allied activities like poultry, horticulture and fishing to ensure sustainable livelihoods. With value addition our food processing industry and horticulture should have immense scope for expanding its footprints. We should focus on home grown food security for all, more investment, crop diversification and value addition. With population increasing regularly, Odisha cannot sustain on imported food security. By 2036 more farmers would resort to organic methods of farming and practice and promote the judicious use of inputs and irrigation.
Climate change is already staring, and its effects are being felt with increasing force and intensity. It is no longer about some distant future and decisions made today will impact us in our near future. Odisha, hopefully will invest billions of dollars in public infrastructure over the next few years. Conducive policies should also aim to massively increase private investments across sectors – manufacturing, services and agriculture. Each of these policies and investments will have time horizons spanning five to 50 years. There is currently no formal process by which projects of a certain scale would have to go through a risk assessment and a cost-benefit analysis of the potential impact of climate change related effects. Ordinary citizens too are directly experiencing climate uncertainty in their lives, especially from extreme events.
One could go on. But let’s tighten our belts and start working. Enough rhetoric.
We are determined to rise.
Bande Utkala Janani
The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and in no way reflect that of www.odishasuntimes.com
*The writer is a Gurgaon-based consultant and commentator; chairman, FIDR. He can be contacted at 9891002891.