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  • ଓଡ଼ିଆରେ ପଢନ୍ତୁ
Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • As per the Odisha government's own data, a high of 7.28 lakh population in over 2,383 quality affected habitations, along with a population of over 48,000, have no access to safe water in the State
  • But as per the data given by the 15th Finance Commission, the number is a massive 46 lakh (which is based on the fact that around 12 per cent of over 96 lakh households in the State have no access to safe drinking water)
  • As per a reply by Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Pratap Jena last year in the State Assembly, 1,242 villages in the State have no road network
  • As per the Odisha Economic Survey tabled in State Assembly in Feb 2021, the rural male unemployment rate in the State, as per PLFS 2018-19 that was released in 2020, has been 7.3 percent as against the national average of 6.6 percent

The curtains are down on the nomination process. The lights, camera and action zoom directly onto the ground zero.    

And when the former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura had once said, "Voting is not a horse race, it is voting your conscience," does the ruling BJD misjudged the Panchayat poll priorities and issues, especially when the Party's breadwinner banner this time has been the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) smart cards.

This appears so as the ruling party has splashed the advertisements of BSKY, along with CM Naveen Patnaik's beaming face, across the platforms of social media - youtube, Facebook, leading newspaper websites et al.

The political strategy, it seems, is to capture the young rural voters who get hooked on social media sites very often.

However, according to author Phil Mitchell, writing in his book "A Bright New Morning: An American Story" had said, "History reminds us what to do and not to do in future."

In the given context, time to turn out the pages of the State's political history. In 2018, a year after BJD's big loss in the 2017 Panchayat polls, the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) had done a survey in Odisha to find out what are the uppermost issues that occupy the rural conscience in the State. The details are shared below.

ADR Survey On Rural Poll Issues   

As per the survey findings, in rural Odisha, the topmost voters’ priorities were the availability of Water for Agriculture, Drinking Water and Better Employment Opportunities.

The survey done in 2018 revealed that when for 43 percent availability of water for agriculture and drinking is most important, another 41 percent rated the availability of better employment opportunities as the most important issue for them.

The survey had revealed that better roads have been the most important issue for three in every 10 voters.

In sum, the issues for rural voters in Odisha, as per the ADR survey, are Water, Roads and Jobs (Paani, Sadak And Kaam). Therefore, the top election watch body had then said schemes (yojanas) for making the availability of water for drinking and farming, road and jobs will make a political party win the battle at the hustings.

PSK - A Reality Check

Paani (Water): As per the Odisha government's own data, a high of 7.28 lakh population in over 2,383 quality affected habitations, along with a population of over 48,000, have no access to safe water in the State. This means a population of nearly 7.8 lakh in Odisha has no access to safe drinking water even at any point in time, including summer.

But as per the data given by the 15th Finance Commission, the number is a massive 46 lakh (which is based on the fact that around 12 per cent of over 96 lakh households in the State have no access to safe drinking water).

The data reveals that Odisha has around 23,192 villages where there is zero piped water supply. A high of 57 per cent of households in the State has no piped water supply.

Sadak (Roads): As per a reply by Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Pratap Jena last year in the State Assembly, 1,242 villages in the State have no road network. The statement laid in Odisha Assembly revealed that as many as 24 districts of the 30 districts in the State have many villages that are bereft of roads. The worse scenario has been observed in districts like Rayagada, Jagatsinghpur, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj and Koraput.

Kaam (Jobs): As per the Odisha Economic Survey tabled in State Assembly in Feb 2021, the rural male unemployment rate in the State, as per PLFS 2018-19 that was released in 2020, has been 7.3 percent as against the national average of 6.6 percent.

Similarly, the rural female unemployment rate has been 4.4 percent vis-a-vis 3.8 percent nationally.

2017 Panchayat Polls Flashback

The ruling BJD strategists in 2017 had the whiff of availability of water for farming and drinking a big issue among rural voters, therefore, the Party then tried to link the water scarcity to Mahanadi and Chhattisgarh govt to browbeat the emerging opposition party BJP. In 2017, Chhattisgarh had a BJP government. However, the 2017 results showed that the BJD strategy had doomed on the ground.

With the PKS still dominating the rural landscape, based on reports coming from the ground, the ruling BJD cannot take the rural elections a free ride for the party. The 2017 bumps are yet to be flattened out.

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