Orissa: The Rich State Made Poor

By Ramahari Mishra

A nation�s past and present determine the future. After 100 years of a movement for Oriya identity and 67 years after establishment of Orissa as a separate state and more than half a century after independence of the country, Orissa is still known as the epitome of poverty. But to me, Orissa is a rich state with poor people. Poor may be in material wealth, but rich in wisdom.

Started with 6 districts namely Koraput, Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Sambalpur and Ganjam, Orissa was expected to be politically and economically a viable state.

With addition of another 7 districts, Orissa became a state with 13 revenue districts. Soon after independence, with the mineral resources of the district of Dhenkanal, Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Bolangir, Boud-phulabani and Kalahandi and exploitation of black-gold and iron ores, hopes were raised that Orissa�s future will scale a new high. But that does not seem to be happening. Instead, we shared with the backwardness and poverty of 7 additional districts, except perhaps Mayurbhanj, as we could not make optimum use of natural resources of the new districts.

The national planning machinery, otherwise known as the Planning Commission, and the successive Finance commissions did not see the under development of Orissa even worse than the neighboring Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. National planning which is aimed at removing regional imbalance has apparently failed. Added to this, there was no rationale with regard to sharing of central taxes from the divisible pool of the center. Orissa was discriminated as against Assam with regard to royalty on minerals. To add insult to the injury, a former union finance minister Mr.T.T.Krishnamachary introduced a freight equalization policy which resulted in loss to the tune of nearly Rs.3000 crores to the Eastern states including Orissa. Freight equalization in iron and steel made Orissa poorer but made advanced states like Maharastra and undivided madras richer. We thought, perhaps rightly, that the poverty Orissa was suffering was due to historical reasons and would soon be out of the woods of its underdevelopment.
In 60s, the Government of Orissa commissioned the national Council of Applied Economic Research to find out the reasons for Orissa�s backwardness in comparison to the other advanced states of the union
And had made a survey, which was completed before the announcement of the 2nd five-year plan. The guidelines provided in the survey embraced all sectors of the economy including industry and minerals. It suggested periodic review of the progress achieved in the various fields of activity. It also suggested that Orissa should ensure annual investment of Rs.1300 crores during this decade so that it could come up to the status of other advanced states of the union. In 1968, NCAER was asked to review the situation after almost 18 years. It found a dismal failure in the industrial sector. At the end of the 3rd plan, the development was not very spectacular. The establishment of the integrated steel plant at Rourkela has not produced the spread effect as evidenced by the fact that a number of licenses sanctioned in the private sector for establishment of industry in Orissa could not be implemented.

To change this scenario, tax sharing must be so streamlined that it helps flow of resources from the center to the states, not for creation, but for elimination of regional economic imbalance.

It must be understood that the future lay on utilization of human resources and improvement of knowledge power. Orissa�s youth stand next to none so far as knowledge power is concerned. They should spread out in the wide-open world when competition is the key word for a successful career.

Orissa�s future development would require improving the lots of tribals who constitute more than 24% of Orissa�s population. Pre-entrance training for them in Army is likely to improve the intake from the state to Army, navy and Airforce.

Sports as a lucrative career seems to occupy a frontal position in the decade to come. Improved nutrition of our children and applied gymnastics is likely to improve Orissa’s� position in the national games and sports. Software and entertainment industry would be the ideals for youths in future where investment of capital resources is low. First and foremost vision for the coming decade to get the present generation free from inertia.

(Shri Mishra is a senior journalist and a senior fellow, Institute of media studies, Bhubaneswar.)

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