Orissa is far from achieving Millennium Development Goals, finds Sambad Survey

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa’s most circulated daily Sambad and its subsidiary Kanak TV celebrated their birthday on October 4 in a different manner this year by holding a debate for and against a public opinion that Orissa has failed in achieving Development Goals featured as Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that the UN summit participated by 189 member States had fixed up in 2000 to be achieved by 2015.

The summit’s declaration had consolidated a set of eight interconnected development goals into a global agenda with time-bound targets and quantifiable indicators while outlining a consensus road-map on how to proceed, with a strong focus on human rights, good governance and democracy.

They were based on (1) eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, (2) achieving Universal Primary Education, (3) Gender equality and empowerment of women, (4) Child death, (5) Mothers health, (6) HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, (7) Environmental sustainability and (8) Global partnership for development.

The UN-MDG Campaign Unit had commissioned Sambad to support the campaign by conducting a sample survey across all the 314 blocks of Orissa. Despite discernible defects in statistics, Sambad has summed up the survey goal wise in a published report that the Panchayatiraj Minister Prafulla Samal formally released before commencement of the debate.

On Goal No.1, the survey says that significant levels of poverty are still prevalent. There is more number of exclusions than inclusions in different social security schemes. No proper monitoring. It recommends that instead of populist subsidized rice scheme, direct cash compensation and greater resource to Panchayats should be ensured with revamping of public distribution system and better monitoring. Generation of awareness about the development schemed amongst targeted beneficiaries is recommended for meaningful march towards this goal.

On Goal No. 2, the survey regrets that despite significant progress in enrolment a great disparity exists across gender, geography and communities. Remedy lies in implementation of Right to Education Act, the survey has recommended.

On Goal No. 3, the survey finds that despite programs like Mission Shakti and reservation for women in Panchayat bodies, female infanticide, domestic violence and maternal mortality alarmingly continue. These need to be aggressively addressed specially designed instruments with time bound results, it has stressed.

On Goal No. 4, its finding is that the infant mortality rate prevalent in Orissa is higher than the national level. It has stressed upon more effective implementation of schemes like ICDS and better monitoring of nutrition programs for children and pregnant women.

On Goal No. 5, the survey finds serious lacuna in implementation of flagship programs like the National Rural Health Mission under which schemes like Janani Suraksha Yojana is designed to address the maternal health and mortality issue. Health infrastructure in rural areas, particularly in interior tribal pockets, need urgent improvement on priority basis, the report has noted.

On Goal No. 6, the survey has determined the situation to be alarming. As the authorities have failed to raise awareness level, steps need be taken in this regard in missionary zeal, it has underlined.

On Goal No. 7, the survey is limited to water supply, sanitation, fuel use and housing. When the water supply situation seems slightly better, in case of the rest three items, the State has to go a long way to achieve the Goal, it has said. It has recommended for new innovative schemes and better implementation of existing schemes to save the situation from further degradation.

All in all, the score card for the state can be said to be sub-par and much remains to be done if the State was to have any chance of getting even close to the Goals set by Millennium Development Campaign, the survey has clearly said.

Release of this survey report being a part of celebration of its birthday, Sambad organized a convention of eminent intellectuals to witness the debate on the subject noted supra in context of the survey.

Prof. Abani Kumar Baral (CPI), Narasingha Mishra (Congress) and Bijoy Mohapatra (BJP) were in support of the finding that Orissa has failed in achieving Development Goals whereas Prof. Kumara Bara Das (Economics –Utkal University), Jagadanada (Information commissioner) and Pyari Mohan Mohapatra (BJD) were to oppose.

When Prof. Baral hammered on how welfare funds are being hijacked by scamsters and how number of primary schools are being tampered with to facilitate misappropriation of funds meant for mid-day meals of the students, Sri Mishra alleged that instead of forward march the state has been moving backward in developmental matters. Sri Mohapatra remarked that development of the elite cannot be read as development of the people. The three of them relied upon official documents like the CAG reports and the reports of Economic Survey to bring home their points.

Opposing the finding, Prof. Das asserted that Orissa’s backwardness is its greatest asset as it gives it the motivation to leap forward. Yet, he gave vent to his fears that the ongoing official emphasis on large industries would make the Government more unpopular. Instead of bringing in big industries, bring in industrialization and matching Orissa’s natural orientation, put premium on tourism industry than on mineral industry to ensure eradication of poverty, he advised the State.

Jagadananda, the Information Commissioner surpassed the best of public relation officers, if any, in projecting success of the government in every sphere of development.

Pyari babu failed to show how the concept that Orissa has failed in achieving the Millennium Goals is not correct; but he drowned the hall in laughter by citing Rajiv Gandhii as the authority in trying to defend his stand. He refused to give credence to CAG report that has exposed massive misappropriation of welfare funds in Orissa. Rather taking shelter under Rajiv Gandhi’s 1985 superficial and unsubstantiated observation that 85% of welfare funds were being misappropriated in Orissa, he declared that the level of misappropriation has declined.

Thus the debate was far from the subject. Speeches – for and against – were mostly peripheral. However, Soumya Ranjan Pattanayak, supremo of both Sambad and Kanak TV managed the debate remarkably.

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  1. I was one of the participants in the Seminar held on “Progress of Millennium Development Goals in Orissa” by Sambad and its sister organisation Kanak TV at Bhubaneswar on 4th October 2010.

    Mr.Jagadanand Orissa Information Commissioner, who happened to be one of the speakers on the occasion, claimed in course of his talk inter alia that RTI Act has achieved a strident progress in the State of Orissa Orissa. To support his claim he asserted that while only 442 RTI applications had been submitted in the whole State in 2006, the number has increased to 41,000 RTI applications in 2009. In his opinion this quantum jump illustrated the fact of a vast bulk of people in Orissa have become RTI users. However, I beg to differ with the very authenticity of the figures he quoted, let alone his claim about the progress of RTI Act.

    First of all, I find a hell-and-heaven difference between what the official version (Annual Report of Orissa Information Commission for 2006-07) said and what Jagadananda now says about the number of RTI applications filed in 2006.

    The said Annual Report in its Chapter ‘INFORMATION, EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION ACTIVITIES IN THE STATE’ claimed inter alia, “The State Commission organized 10 day Awareness-cum-Assistance Programme called “Soochana Shibirs” in all revenue district headquarters and six important towns namely, Berhampur, Bhubaneswar, Jeypore, Paradip, Rourkela and Talcher (10-19 Nov 2006). …… The “Soochana Shibirs” in all the 36 places were hugely successful creating a great deal of enthusiasm as well as awareness among the general public regarding the provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005 and the Orissa Rules framed thereunder. This was evident from the flood of applications received under Sections 18 and 19 of the Act by the State Commission. About 61 thousand people visited the “Soochana Shibirs” held all over the State and 38800 R.T.I. applications were filed during the period mainly on the issues like allotment of houses under Indira Awas Yojana, B.P.L. Card issue, Land matters, Public Distribution System etc.”. (Vide Annual Report 2006-07 of Orissa Information Commission http://orissasoochanacommission.nic.in/Annual%20Report_OIC(2006-07.pdf).

    Thus either Mr.Jagadanand is true (only 442 RTI applications for the whole year 2006) when the Report of the Commission is false (claiming as many as 38,800 applications filed only in course of 10 days, not to speak of the whole year), or Mr.Jagadanand is false when the Report of the Commission is true.

    Either way, Mr.Jagadanand, Orissa Information Commissioner and Mr.D.N.Padhi Chief Orissa Information Commissioner, the principal author of the said Report must first of all settle in-house the massive statistical gap between them before any of them presents any statistics of such kind before the public. Otherwise, both Mr.Jagadanand and Mr.Padhi shall prove themselves as liars pure and simple.

    Secondly, the big problem with the Commission as a whole is that none of its Reports has ever adhered to the norms laid down by Section 25(3) of RTI Act 2005 (http://orissasoochanacommission.nic.in/rti_act.html) in respect of compiling the statistics on use of RTI by the public. The said Section inter alia prescribes, “Each report shall state in respect of the year to which the report relates, (a) the number of requests made to each public authority…”. It means that such a Report should inform its readers on the exact number of RTI Applications filed before each public authority in the State. It further means that the exact number applications submitted in a specific Block office, Tahsil, District Collectorate, Police Station or even a Gram Panchayat shall be known at a glance from this Report. Further, the Report ought also to inform the readers the specific numbers of RTI applications submitted to each of the public authorities working under competent authorities like Orissa High Court and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

    When the Act has thus categorically enjoined upon the Commission to mention in a disaggregated manner the specific numbers of RTI applications filed before each public authority, it has however become a bad, nay illegal practice with the Commission over the yeras to furnish only aggregate figures, the veracity of which can’t be verified, let alone challenged by any reader. Created statistics is an age-old trick of the defaulters and defrauders, and Orissa Information Commission happens to be its excellent example.

    In absence of disaggregated figures in respect of each public authority in the Report of Orissa Information Commission mandated by law, whatever Mr.Jagadanand verbalizes at his sweet will as he did on 4th Nov. last or whatever the Commission’s Report furnishes in the shape of the aggregate figures in course of its Annual Reports is not only worthless from the point of view of RTI Act, but also deceptive out and out, its hidden agenda being to cover up the abject failure of both State Government and Commission in advancing the cause of RTI Act in the State. Sooner the Commissioners give up this dubious practice, cleaner shall be their image and more importantly, brighter shall be the future of RTI Act in the State of Orissa.

  2. I am sure people need to go back to primary school to understand what a debate is. And when someone is mandated to speak in favour of the notion he/she does that. We Oriyas have imbibed a great quality (i dont know from where) of pointing fingers at others in the first instance. Nevertheless our own house may not be in proper order or I would say infact kept behind black veils. My friend Mr.Pradhan should have been more happy to understand that it was the popularity of RTI being stressed and statistics doesnt need to prove this matter.The fact which might have been missed during the course of discussion was the huge money being minted by NGOs, consultants, convenors, advisors in the name of RTI. But I am very sorry to say that the concerned citizen who is also an activist fails to accept the fact that RTI has become popular and progressed well in the state. This throws light on the real nature of the activists who have little knowledge of the ground and the impact of RTI in Orissa, may be time being a constraint for them as one may not get internet connection in the remote corners to write long mails on issues which are irrelevant and absurd in nature.

    Orissa has a number of other issues to be addressed and dealt.

    All the best and good luck

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