The Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput region's tryst with poverty and deprivation continue to haunt Odisha, even in the 21st Century, notwithstanding a plethora of schemes - from Long Term Action Plan to Biju KBK Yojana.
The lingering KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) syndrome in Odisha, even after nearly three decades, has been unveiled by the NITI Aayog's Poverty report. The eye-popping fact to the fore is still more than half of the rural population in the region are poor and the depth of their poverty is also very acute.
Odisha government's Jajpur and Kalahandi models have also come under scrutiny. Because, industry rich Jajpur has the second-highest urban poor in the State, just behind remote Malkangiri. The policy of equitable development appears to have remained a slogan in the State.
Even as the NITI Aayog Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) has pricked the scheme-bubble for the poorest region in India, called the KBK region, it has also laid bare the reigning high inequality between rural and urban Odisha - when Ama Gaon, Ama Bikash has been CM Patnaik's pet programme.
Rural-Urban Poverty Wall
The inclusive development of the Naveen Patnaik led government is hardly visible in the NITI Aayog MPI as the gap between rural and urban MPI scores is a yawning 0.95. While the rural areas in all districts, except Cuttack, Puri, Khordha and Jagatsinghpur, have a high headcount ratio, the urban areas in the districts record a lower headcount ratio.
The most populous district Ganjam, despite the home district of CM Naveen Patnaik, displays the inequitable growth model. The MPI gap between rural and urban is high at 0.90.
A glance at the MPI reveals that Odisha could bring equitable development in only 4 of the 30 districts. The inequity is roaring even in western Odisha where the urban headcount poverty ratio is over 14 percent, except for Balangir and Deogarh.
The Jajpur Model
How lackadaisical is the development policy is evident from the fact that the Jajpur district has the second-highest urban poverty in Odisha, next only to Malkangiri.
In Jajpur, nearly half of the population (over 45%) live below the poverty line, despite the district having 10 heavy-duty industries engaged in the production of iron and steel.
KBK Syndrome Lingers On
The State's top-5 poorest districts dominate the NITI Aayog's Headcount poverty ratio. While in the overall index (Urban + Rural), Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada and Kalahandi occupied the impoverished top -5 in the State, the rural poverty count numbers are simply yawning.
When three in every four in rural Nabarangpur and Malkangiri are poor, more than half of the rural population in the other KBK districts like - Kalahandi, Koraput and Rayagada - are living below the poverty line.
In order to remove poverty and bring equitable growth, late PM Narashima Rao in 1995 announced a special package in the form of the Long-Term Action Plan (LTAP), which was later revised in 1998 by late PM ABVajpayee. And from 2015, CM Naveen Patnaik has rolled out the Biju KBK Yojana.
The 2021 Niti MPI shows no big impact in the impoverished region of the State.
The Kalahandi Model
Even as the State government has recently claimed that Kalahandi has chugged the development train, but the Niti Index gives a reality check on the claims.
The rural headcount poverty ratio in the district is high at 50.24 percent. The depth of poverty is also high as the intensity is measured at around 48 percent. The MPI score is very high at 0.240.
However, the poverty headcount ratio for the urban areas in the district is measured at a mere 7.7 percent, far better than State Headquarter district Khordha, though the depth of poverty in urban Kalahandi is very acute as the intensity is measured at around 54 percent vis-a-vis 47 percent in Khordha.
The numbers reveal how inequitable has been the development in the backward district of Kalahandi. The umpteen of programmes, including the Biju KBK Yojana, seem to have no impact in bringing inclusive growth and faster poverty alleviation.
Multidimensional poverty is measured high in all the tribal-dominated districts in the State.