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.