Among The Poorer States ORISSA NO 1
Poverty continues to follow Orissa. Despite tall claims of rapid industrialisation by the government, the ghost of poverty haunts the state.
For the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the resounding victory in the elections 2008 hasn’t been auspicious. The election result was the last news that could bring smile to the BJD government. Since then, only bas news has followed it, the latest being the Suresh Tendulkar report which puts Orissa at the top among the poorer states of India.
According to the report, every third Indian is living in poverty. However, in Orissa 57.2 per cent of population live under poverty. Something, the government least wanted to hear.
As per the report, among the states, Orissa and Bihar are the worst while Nagaland, Delhi and J&K have the least number of the poor.
The timing of the report couldn’t have been more improper for the government. Pushed on to the back foot because of the mining scam and hounded by the opposition, the government is battling it hard to defend itself on one hand. On the other, the farmers suicide cases from across the state has put it on the defensive.
Not surprisingly, the government dismisses the report. “It’s because of the faulty methodology adopted for the study. Previously poverty was estimated on income and expenditure of the people of the state. However, this study has included 13 socio economic indicators. There are many states poorer than us. In fact the whole of India is suffering from such statistical jugglery,” state agriculture minister Damodar Rout said.
Rout, however, admits that poverty is an issue in Orissa. “No doubt, it’s a poverty stricken state, but no way we are the poorest. The reality is different,” Rout said.
“Under Naveen Patnaik we are the only state to run so many schemes from the state fund. The financial position of Orissa is much better than before. The BJD Government is trying its best to make it the most developed state in India,” Rout claims.
Rout blames the Congress government for this spectacle. “With a bid to get more funds from the centre, Congress government under J B Patnaik projected the poorer image of the state. The main opposition parties, the Congress and BJP are not ready to buy the government’s claims.
“It’s only because of bad governance that we have gone from poor to being the poorest,” he stated.
“The delivery system is faulty, as a result of which the assistance is not reaching the right person,” Congress president K.P Singh Deo alleged.
Singh Deo says that the state government has received more funds during the UPA government than the previous NDA government in which the BJD government was an ally. “During the UPA Government Orissa has received over 2.5 times central assistance as compared to the NDA government. Even then the situation has worsened. It’s because of bad governance” The central government assistance hasn’t been properly utilized. The state has to make optimum utilisation of central government assistance to better the situation” Singh Deo added.
Orissa BJP chief Suresh Pujari, though partly agrees with Singh Deo, however blames both the BJD and Congress for the poverty that envelopes the state.
“Ours is a state with highest forest coverage, huge mineral resources deposit and abundant water resources. In spite of all this, we are just like Somalia. We are the poorest Its shameful Indeed,” state BJP president Suresh Pujari says.
Pujari blames the leadership for the position of the state. Unfortunately the states Chief Minister lack the vision. Earlier JB Patnaik of the Congress government lacked any vision for which the state slipped into the grip of poverty. But things have gone out of hand under Naveen Patnaik. It’s the bad luck of the state and Orissa is bound to be the poorest under these chief ministers.
Reacting to Pujari, a senior BJD leader requesting anonymity said that it would be wrong to blame a single person for the poverty of Orissa. “The development of the state entirely depends on a coherent team work. An individual can only guide” he said.
Incidentally, not long ago, Pujari’s party—the BJP—was also part of the BJD government before the BJD snapped severed its tiles with the lotus party just on the eve of the 2008 elections.
“We owe the responsibility. We don’t absolve ourselves from this,” Pujari says adding, “in the government we were the tail. That was the worst phase of the party’s history in Orissa. Even then, we fought with BJD for the interest of the state. Now as an opposition we are fighting for the same.”
According to the estimate of the government-appointed committee which said the number of the poor has shot up by nearly 10 per cent to over 37 per cent. The expert group, headed by former chairman of PM’s Economic Advisory Council Suresh Tendulkar, in its report on poverty said 41.8 per cent of the rural population spend a meagre amount Rs 447 a month on essential necessities like food, fuel, light, clothing and footwear.
However, according to the World Bank’s estimates, 41.6 per cent Indians live on less than USD 1.25 a day, the international poverty line.
Parties Win, State Loses
With hung assembly again, the political uncertainty and instability in Jharkhand continues. No single party or pre-poll alliance has got the clear majority in the assembly elections 2009. Parties and leaders have won but the state has lost. In the 81-seat assembly, Congress led alliance got 25, while BJP-led NDA could get only 20 seats. Intellectuals feel that as a result of fractured mandate the corruption-haunted state would witness a fresh spell of corruption detrimental to the state’s advancement.
JMM with 18 seats in its kitty has emerged as the key player in government formation but its supremo Sibu Soren does not appear in a hurry and is weighing all pros and cons and keeping his cards close to his chest. Political managers and strategists of both the combines–Congress-JVM and BJP-JDU–have started their efforts–overtly or covertly–to woo Soren, although Congress being in power at the Centre has more in store to offer him. However, JMM spokesman Supriyo Bhattacharya says: “Sibu will be the king this time and not mere the kingmaker as he is the only true mass leader of the state and separate Jharkhand was created due to the long struggle waged and sacrifices made by him.”
Corruption was the buzzword among the most political parties contesting the Jharkhand elections 2009 but for voters it appears to be a non-issue. Two major combines, the BJP-JDU and Congress-JVM continued to harp on the need of a corruption-free, clean government during entire electioneering to win votes and influence voters but their call to defeat the tainted ministers or their spouses has fallen flat.
Geeta Koda, wife of jailed former CM Madhu Koda, won by over 25,000 votes from Jagannathpur seat earlier held by her husband. Similarly, two jailed former ministers Enosh Ekka of Jharkhand Party and independent Hari Narayan Rai retained their seats by comfortable margins. Chandra Prakash Chaudhary of AJSU, Bandhu Tirky of Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch and Nalin Soren of JMM–all facing charges of amassing properties disproportionate to their known source of income too came out with flying colours in Ramgarh, Mandar and Shikaripara respectively.
BJP which reclaimed eight of the 14 Lok Sabha seats and established lead in 39 assembly segments in the recently held parliamentary elections was buoyant during electioneering and its leaders exuded confidence of forming the next government with its ally JDU. However, the party was reduced to 18 seats, 12 less than that won in the 2005 elections. It remained second on 23 seats. Although party leaders are yet to make an assessment as to what went wrong, political pundits attribute debacle to overconfidence, internal rivalry of chief ministerial post aspirants and long-drawn infighting of party’s central leaders. JD(U) was shorn of its sheen as it could manage to retain only two of its seats as compared to six seats in 2005 probably due to weak organisation and importance given to “Aaya Ram Gaya Ram” brand politicians in ticket distribution.
Babulal Marandi has emerged as a force to reckon with in this election. His JVM (P) not only won 11 seats with comfortable margin but also remained second on 10 other seats. Though Congress improved its tally from nine to 14, its six top leaders including state president Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, legislature party leader Manoj Kumar Yadav, former Union Minister Dr Rameshwar Oraon, new entrant and former deputy CM Prof Stephen Marandi, state working president Furkan Ansari and former assembly speaker Alamgir Alam lost. Other important losers include state JD(U) president and former minister Jaleshwar Mahto, state RJD president Gautam Sagar Rana, RJD legislature party leader Girinath Singh, JMM leader and former Deputy CM Sudhir Mahto and BJP strategist Saryu Rai.
Of the RJD-LJP-Left combine, which contested about 70 seats, only five candidates of RJD could emerge victorious. All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) has proved its mettle by winning five seats as compared to two last times.
By P Vatsal
The World Bank in its report ‘Global Economic Prospects for 2009’ had projected that even by 2015, one-fourth of India’s population will be living in extreme poverty.
The Planning Commission in its own estimates had pegged the poverty at 27.5 per cent. According to the Planning Commission’s recent estimates, poverty in India came down from 35.97 per cent in 1993-94 to 27.54 per cent in 2004-05.
Although the Tendulkar report has estimated the poverty at 37.2 per cent against the Plan panels estimate of 27.5 per cent, it said the estimates are “not comparable” as the former is based on new basket of goods. In Madhya Pradesh over 48.6 per cent of people live below poverty line with a rural person in the state having only Rs 408 to spend on their various necessities in a month.
“The expert group has moved away from the calorie intake norm in view of the fact that calorie consumption calculated by converting the consumed quantities in the last 30 days as collected by NSS has not been found to be well correlated with the nutritional outcomes,” the report said.
In fact, the rural head-count ratio as per the new methodology is also more at 41.8 per cent in comparison to 28.3 per cent, says the report.
The situation is slightly better in urban areas, with 25.7 per cent being poor and they spend Rs 578.8 a month.
If the report is to be believed Orissa’s poverty scenario has gone worse as compared to 2004-5 when the planning commission report had put it at 46.4 percent of the population.
According to the report over 60.8 percent people living in rural areas are poor while it’s 37.6 in case of the urban population.
According to the 2004-5 report the percentage of people living below poverty line in rural and urban areas were 46.8 and 26.7 percent respectively.
With 54.4 percent of its population living below the poverty line, Bihar is next to Orissa in the poverty ladder followed by Chhatishgarh (49.4), Madhya Pradesh (48.6) and Jharkhand.
Even the pre-budget economic survey for 2007-08 described Orissa as the poorest state in India. “Orissa’s economy is still characterised by incidences of poverty,” it had said.
Poverty is not a new news to Orissa. Orissa over the decades has hugged national and international headlines for its rampant poverty. In the 80’s when Banita of Kalahandi district was sold off for a paltry sum of Rs 40 the country was stunned with shame. So moved was the national attention that the then Prime Minister the late Rajiv Gandhi toured Kalahandi and promised special packages. In the next decade another hunger death caught national sympathy and Prime Minister late Narsimha Rao took a trip to the state and following his visit the Central Government announced the special Kalahandi- Balangir-Koraput (KBK) project.
By Debi Mohanty from Bhubaneswar