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A foundation stone laid by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in January 2004 for the construction of a market complex . The complex has not come up till date in Phulbani town in Kandhamal district.
A foundation stone laid by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in January 2004 for the construction of a market complex . The complex has not come up till date in Phulbani town in Kandhamal district.

Prafulla Das

They seek to cash in on backwardness of Kandhamal

Official website has data as old as 10 years

Chief Minister’s measures will not help check growth of extremism

BHUBANESWAR: As politicians of different hues indulge in blame game in the wake of anti-Christian violence in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district, the Maoists were likely to gain the most because of virtual absence of the administration in the rural interiors.

The Communist Party of India (Maoist), which has already grown in strength in adjoining Gajapati and Rayagada districts, was expected to strengthen its base with ease in the post-riot situation.

Low literacy

Apart from the communal divide that started growing in Kandhamal since late 80s when Vishwa Hindu Parishad started its activities, the other factors that had added to the plight of the tribals and Dalits in the district were low literacy and abject poverty, poor access to healthcare, fragmented land holding, poor connectivity and total lack of railway network, and lack of industrial infrastructure.

Out of the total number of 1,45,335 households in Kandhamal in 1997, a whooping 78 per cent lived below the poverty line (1,13,970 households). The nearest railway station is at Berhampur, 165 km away from Phulbani town.

Shopping complex

That the successive governments in the State hardly paid attention to economic uplift of the people of Kandhamal is clear. As one enters the district headquarter town of Phulbani, one comes across a foundation stone alongside the road. It was laid by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in January 2004 for establishment of a shopping complex to provide self employment opportunity to local youths by allotting them shops. Work on the project has not started so far.

Even as the recent communal violence started in Kandhamal soon after the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati on August 23, the State government has been trying hard to show that the long-standing divide between the tribals and Dalits on economic lines was a major factor that contributed towards widespread violence in the district. But those running the Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government since March 2000 seem to be blissfully ignorant that it was they who kept the simmering discontent among the poor of Kandhamal under the carpet.

That Kandhamal was not on the priority list of the State government is visible from the official website of the district.

Most of the links that the website has have data as old as 10-years-old.

According to the website, a sum of only Rs. 369.93 lakh had been invested in 424 industrial units in the district up to 1998-99 giving employment to a total of 1,592 persons.

No major industry has come up in Kandhamal till date.

As regards industrial infrastructure, the district has only one industrial estate at Phulbani with just five industrial sheds spread over an area of 10 acres. It has only one Industrial Training Institute.

Development package

The Chief Minister has now announced a special development package for the district.

But going by his government’s performance in the past, such measures may not help check growth of Left wing extremism in Kandhamal in the coming days.

The Maoists have already made their presence felt in several areas of Kandhamal, including Brahmanigaon and Tumudibandha.

As the communal divide between Hindus and Christians gets wider after the recent riots, the Maoists will surely grab the opportunity and make inroads into newer areas.

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