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Report pats Odisha govt on Re 1 rice scheme, raps it on women’s safety

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 5:

A  citizen’s report on “15 years of Odisha Governance; Promises and Fulfillments,’” prepared by Wada Na Todo Abhijan (WNTA), a campaign of 4000 civil society organisations (CSOs) in the country, was released here today.

Former Finance minister Panchanan Kanungo addressing the function at the release of the citizen's report on governance in Odisha in the last 15 years on Tuesday
Former Finance minister Panchanan Kanungo addressing the function at the release of the citizen’s report on governance in Odisha in the last 15 years on Tuesday

The report is a compendium of analytical reports focusing on a varied range of subjects concerning the poor and marginalised sections of the State. The subjects include displacement, migration, land acquisition, violence against women, disability, health, education, child rights, corruption, environment, transparency in fiscal management, agriculture, environment, human rights, land rights and tribal governance.

The report, which examined the performance of the Odisha Government on these fronts in the last 15 years, listed some ‘visible achievements’ of the government in areas like successful implementation of one rupee rice scheme, tribal education, residential schools for tribal girls etc. Though there have been some complaints in their implementation, these schemes have been able to save people from starvation deaths and promoted education of tribal children.

The report, however,  indicts the government on the women’s safety front. “Despite the government initiating several measures to curb crimes against women, they are increasingly becoming vulnerable to sexual abuse, molestation, domestic violence, trafficking, dowry torture and rape, and several other atrocities,” it said. The number of rape cases in the state has seen an alarming rise over the years, galloping from 1112 in 2011 to 1458 in 2012, 1832 in 2013 and 2011 in 2014, it pointed out.

Odisha government took corrective measures such as establishing Mahila and Sishu Desk at police stations, setting up integrated Anti-Human Trafficking Units in all districts, and a convergent action between Women and Child Development and Home Department to provide a mechanism to address safety issues of women. The government also notified the Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme in 2012 that includes provision for victims/survivors of sexual assault, rape and acid attacks. The Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2013, is another act that strengthens legal protection for women. The review paper on violence against women in the state discusses condition of women in different spheres of life and analyses the effectiveness of the steps taken by the different departments of State government over the years.

The condition of marginalised sections of Odisha during the regime has not been commendable despite several policy decisions and measures taken up in the last decade to benefit vulnerable groups such as women, tribals, scheduled caste communities, etc.

In the last fifteen years, Odisha has witnessed a metamorphosis in development, agriculture, and most importantly, in demography. The time period was also marred by many scams including the mining scam, which ran for almost nine years after the current government assumed power in 2000. Estimates suggest that the scam cost the state exchequer between rupees one lakh crore and five lakh crore. The land scam in the Twin City of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack also ran into several thousand crores. Several other scams, which surfaced, include chit fund scam, NREGA scam, dal scam, seed scam,  coal scam, chit fund scam etc. The review on corrupt practices in last 15 years analyses the magnitude of scams and government action in this regard.

Despite implementing employment generation scheme of the central government and initiating its own schemes, the state has not been able to put a stop on increasing migration in Odisha. The report on migration finds out that Odisha is a key migration source state with 937,148 inter-state migrants. It classifies migration as both distress and opportunity driven. The report recommends implementing the laws for providing safety to migrant labourers and initiating skill-based training of unemployed youth in towns which have seen rapid migration in recent times.  It highlights the importance of role of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) in preventing the exploitation of migrant labourers, especially women and children, by ensuring registration of labour contractors, placement agencies and also labourers at local level.

Similarly, the report on land acquisition and displacement reveals that the government has not been able to make provisions for resettlement and rehabilitation for the people affected by development projects. The reports point out the upsetting trend of forced land acquisition.

Odisha has been facing multifaceted problems of climate change that include environment degradation, mangrove depletion, coastal erosion, declining green cover and many other issues related to climate change. The review paper on environment points out that the government has initiated some unique measures in carbon sequestration and combating climate change. Odisha became the first Indian state to implement the Climate Change Action Plan and, also, to pilot the project for carbon sequestration through micro-algae technology.

Other review papers explore human rights violations, condition of children, state of education, agriculture, health situation, and implementation of welfare schemes initiated by Union and state governments. This compendium of review reports is not only aimed at demarking the problem areas but is also intended to suggest possible solutions for inclusive development of Odisha in the line of Sustainable Development Goals proposed and advocated by the United Nations.

Participating in the discussion Dr Aurobindo Behera, Retd IAS, said that such exercises strengthen the democratic functioning of our state. People should ask and seek accountability from the ruling party about their promises made in the manifesto while contesting the election and make the government truthful on its promises, said Jagadanand, former Information commissioner. Former Finance Minister Panchanan Kanungo opined that out of 1242 promises, only 142 were fulfilled by the BJD government in the last 15 years.

Congress spokesperson Ganeswar Behera shared that 36% of people are poor and it is unfortunate that we have been placed in the lowest rank of poverty in these 15 years. High trafficking, farmer suicide and migration have become a regular phenomena.

Senior Journalist Rabi Das eulogised the process of Wada Na Todo Campaign and said that this type of citizen’s watch should prevail across the state to have an effective transparent and accountable governance.

BJP legislature party leader Basant Panda expressed that the present government is not at all concerned for the interest of farmers, small scale industries and dependants of minor forest produce. These groups are becoming extremely vulnerable.

The national campaign coordinator Pradeep Baisakh and the state anchor Ms Sashiprava Bindhani were present during the meeting.

Wada Na Todo Abhiyan is a national campaign on governance and accountability. It has done performance reviews of the UPA 1 and UPA 2 and 100 days of the current NDA govt. Apart from Odisha, it is also conducting assessment of other three other states: Telengana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In coming days, it will undertake similar exercises in Maharashtra, Delhi and Jharkhand. It is now in a process of making assessment of one year of NDA govt at centre.