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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Be it the sheer negligence on part of the Odisha government or better facilities at schools in their home states, Odia speaking population in the bordering states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are witnessing the disappearance of Odia medium schools and unavailability of Odia teachers to educate the next generation in their mother tongue.

Saraikela and Kharsawan in Jharkhand were once Odia speaking princely states and among two of the 26 Garhjats which made up the State of Odisha. It is worth mentioning here that these are predominately Odia speaking areas. About 70 percent people here speak the Odia language.

During the re-organisation (of states) exercise in 1948, these two princely states were clubbed with the erstwhile Bihar state which has become present-day Jharkhand after bifurcation.

But the Odia speaking population in the areas is finding it hard to learn their mother tongue owing to alleged neglect by the Odisha government. With a shortage of Odia teachers, the already dwindling numbers of Odia medium schools are vanishing one by one.

OTV took stock of the Saraikela Municipal School which is one of the few schools which has been teaching Odia to its students with two teachers appointed by the Utkal Sammilani with a paltry salary.

Ritarani Nanda, the Odia teacher at the school said, “The Jharkhand government moved a lot of Odia teachers in this area citing reduced number of students in classes. Schools have either been shut down or merged with other schools. The future of Odia is bleak here.”

In 2011, the Jharkhand government had given second language status to Odia language. However, the same was withdrawn later which has affected the Odia speaking people of Saraikela, Kharsawan, east Singhbhum, west Singhbhum and few other area of Jharkhand.

Moving to the Bhetia and Solpata villages in West Medinipur district of the bordering state of West Bengal, the sizable Odia speaking population too is finding it difficult to study in their mother tongue.

Utkal Sammilani took steps to revive the Odia teaching in the villages with establishment of some ‘Chatashalis’ in the area in 2009. But dearth of funds and negligence by the Odiaha government resulted in shutting down a lot of those Chatashalis.

Odia speaking students in the area are forced to head for Bengali schools after getting no help from Odisha.

Swastik Panda, a student in Bhetia said, “We do not get books here. A lot of my friends have migrated to Bengali schools for this reason.”

A member of Utkal Sammilani in Balasore, Manoranjan Das, said, “Our aim is to keep Odia language alive in those areas. But lack of funds has resulted in shortage of books and teachers. Odia is on the brink of vanishing in these states.”

Similalry, an Odia medium school in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam district has a sorry tale to tell. The MPP Odia School in Meliaputti in the district is struggling to keep afloat with no financial support from Odisha.

However, the Odisha government denied neglect to these schools. Speaking to OTV, School and Mass Education Minister Sameer Dash said, “We have appointed 650 teachers in 600 schools through the Utkal Sammilani. Not only that, but we have recruited 12 supervisors to manage the schools.”

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