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Odisha's infrastructure-based development 'hasn't led to' inclusive economic growth

By Sudhansu R Das 

A treasure trove of natural resources, rich handicraft traditions, crop diversity, and a vibrant natural sector, Odisha is facing several challenges on the economic, social, and cultural fronts. There is a massive migration of educated youth, skilled and semiskilled laborers to other states for employment which has not only created an acute shortage of quality human resources but a scarcity of agricultural labour. 
Though infrastructure-based development has generated huge revenue, it has not created the right environment for inclusive growth. The state is unable to tap its natural sector economy due to a lack of self-belief, and expertise and due to a lack of quality human resources who can effectively manage its immense natural capital. 
 This is the reason why the natural sector does not generate much employment in the state; the state has to depend on infrastructure, manufacturing, and the services sector which can’t meet the growing unemployment needs of the state. 
 Rain floods in urban areas, river floods, cyclones, heat waves, and lack of water for agricultural activities, etc., make the majority of people suffer. The economic growth in the state needs proper balance and it also needs quality human resources who can balance it.
Though the state has built very good roads, it has not created the right environment for entrepreneurship to take root in most of the districts. The roads help big companies to reach remote districts with consumer products; it helps shopping malls and traders to reach consumers. 
It is very essential for the state government to help the local producers in marketing their products; roads should help the common man to increase their income from economic activities. Similarly, farmers should get an opportunity to keep their produce in rural godowns and cold storage at an affordable cost. 
The rural godowns and cold storages which were built with government subsidies should not stray away from their purposes. A dedicated audit and ground-level database should be prepared on the status of each and every rural godown and cold storage as this storage system is a very essential part of the rural economy. 
 Similarly, all irrigation projects should be reviewed and audited thoroughly; it will improve their quality which is necessary for agriculture development vis-à-vis the phenomenal agriculture credit growth. 
 All the infrastructure projects should be reviewed by a credible independent expert committee to know their end use and their economic and social benefits. Once the ground reality is documented, it will achieve inclusive growth for the state. No development is possible without documentation of the ground reality.
Domestic industries, handicraft skills, agriculture, trade, and business flourished in Odisha until the end of the 16th century AD. The political class of Odisha should necessarily learn the economic history of Odisha well; they should learn its culture, traditions, and language and should acquire complete knowledge of different economic sectors of the state. 
They should equip themselves with grass root level knowledge so that no smart agency could cheat them with multimedia presentations and fake projections of benefits. 
 The political class should muster the courage and skill to evaluate the infrastructure projects on their own and guide the state to choose the right infrastructures which are beneficial for people. When people want water, quality education, hospitals, and good doctors, don’t give them free food, loan waivers, and freebies. 
 The political class should create the right environment in the state so that people could earn income with self-respect. Brave and strong-willed politicians in the state should become anti-heroes to correct the wrong and set right the system. Only a change of minds and hearts will bring significant change to Odisha.
Heatwaves in Odisha erode huge productive hours of people. The people of Odisha experience a life-threatening summer heat which soars over 44 degrees Celsius in many districts and the temperature crosses 48 degrees in some parts of Odisha. The power cut aggravates the situation. 
There are also reported incidents of deaths due to heat strokes in Odisha. When summer is over, the rain torments people; river floods in villages and rain floods in urban centers make life miserable for the residents. After the rainy season, the cyclone strikes the state; it takes life and devastates the economy more frequently than before. 
Despite immense tourism potential, Cuttack looks like a war-ravaged city. Local residents are responsible for their miserable conditions
The worst sufferers are the villagers who struggle hard to live in villages and grow food for the rest of the people. Unsustainable mining activities, deforestation, and the destruction of rivers, lakes, and water bodies aggravate the summer heat and reduce the cyclone resistance power of the state. Monitoring of the forest cover in coastal regions should be done through satellite images and the protection of the forest and greeneries should be the priority of the government. 
 Forest cover and water bodies can save Odisha from the terrible summer heat. It is the responsibility of every educated and conscious Oriya to protect and preserve its natural capital as there are many jobs that are enshrined in the natural sector economy.
Each and every district headquarter needs a quality health care system so that people would not rush to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack for treatment. The districts need quality doctors and life-saving medical equipment. 
Thousands of patients from different districts are flooding SCB Medical in Cuttack; they sleep on the floor, stay in rented houses and spend their hard-earned money. Many of them fall into the trap of middlemen who take them to private hospitals for treatment; most of the private hospitals loot the patients. 
Like private hospitals, private schools are mushrooming in the state; they erode much of the income of the common people and give “A for Apple type” rote education. The state government while building schools should build a dedicated teaching force which is essential for the growth of the state. The teaching profession should be attractive so that bright students will choose this profession.
Urban centers are the economic powerhouses. The growth of slums should be stopped in cities; workers should come to work in cities and return to their villages after the work is over. Migration of people from villages should be stopped at the village only by creating employment opportunities in rural areas. 
 Open drains, the disappearance of open space, playgrounds, and water bodies have made the most important and historic Cuttack city unlivable. The sewerage disposal system is not working in the city and the drain water enters the ground floor houses in most of the localities during the rainy season.
The political class of Odisha should save the cultural capital of the state; the historic Cuttack City needs to be repaired by efficient people. British Historian William Hunter narrated Cuttack had beautiful wide and straight roads with bungalows looking like pictures on a drawing board. 
In spite of having immense tourism potential, Cuttack looks like a war-ravaged city; the local residents are also responsible for their miserable conditions. They are not in a position to keep their own Sahi (locality) clean and healthy. Educated people are fleeing the city searching for open space in the city suburbs. 
That is not the solution because the suburbs also face the same problems. The solution lies in facing the problems head-on; the Sahi Murabis (local leaders) should come forward to rescue Cuttack City and other urban centers of Odisha from further degradation. This is high time for the state to focus on meaningful development.

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