Pradeep Pattanayak

Launched in 2014 to provide accessible and affordable transport facilities to people in rural Odisha, the Biju Gaon Gadi Yojana seems to be on its last leg. 

The pathetic status of the scheme has led people to take a dig at the plethora of schemes which have been doled out in quick intervals with pompous announcements. However, when it comes to usefulness, the schemes fail miserably, or fall flat, they say.

The condition of a Biju Gaon Gadi, abandoned for months together by the side of Oupada government hospital in Balasore district, speaks volumes about the lifespan of the scheme. 

This vehicle, a mini bus, used to ply between Oupada and Nilagiri in Balasore district in 2018. It has been two years since it lies abandoned by the side of Oupada hospital boundary wall. Termination of permit is said to be the reason behind such a condition of the vehicle. 

Even today, people in Koraput district can be seen travelling in tractors, auto rickshaws and commander jeeps while putting their lives to risk. The same picture can be seen in all most all inaccessible pockets of other districts, mainly the tribal dominated ones. 

In order to put an end to their age-old sufferings, the government had launched Biju Gaon Gadi Yojana seven years ago. The vehicle owners used to run the services with the government assistance. 

If Koraput district is taken as a case study, as many as 127 Biju Gaon Gadi vehicles were pressed into service. At present, only one is somehow managing the show. 

“The Biju Gaon Gadi vehicles plied for some days. Now, one of such vehicles is left to rot by the boundary wall of Oupada hospital. The government is launching scores of yojanas (schemes). But it hardly ensures that the yojanas are actually reaching the targeted groups,” rued Alekh Behera, an Oupada resident. 

Echoing in similar vein, Koida resident Parameshwar Naik said after the Biju Gaon Gadi buses were put off the road, people in rural and remote areas were at the receiving end. “Behind these government schemes lies the objective of garnering votes,” said Naik. 

When asked about the reason behind the buses disappearing from roads, Koraput RTO Prasanna Das put the blame on the vehicle owners. He said the owners are not paying the instalments of loans they had availed from finance companies. “This is why the buses are off roads,” Das reasoned. 

These vehicles were initially plying in remote areas of 14 districts. The service was then extended to more five districts. After running for some years successfully the vehicles disappeared when people had just started depending on them. Observers said the Covid-19 pandemic-induced restrictions are responsible for the failure of the yojana to some extent. The pandemic period, which affected almost all the sectors, hit the vehicle owners hard. They were not able to deposit the loan installments and taxes. 

When contacted, Transport Minister Padmanabha Behera said, “Some vehicles were off service following the lockdowns and shutdowns. Lack of timely maintenance of the vehicle led to the present state of affairs. The government’s assistances are still being provided as earlier.”

Whatever may be the reason behind the failure of the yojana, people still hope that the buses under the Biju Gaon Gadi Yojna will hit the roads once again.