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Pradeep Pattanayak

In what the dark side of the Western Odisha’s so-called development is laid bare, vice chairman of Deogaon block in Bolangir district has gone out of the State to feed the empty stomachs of his family members. 

After 2017 Panchayat elections, Raju Bag became Deogaon the block vice chairman. He was critical of the government for his region being deprived of the benefits of the government schemes and programmes, and even spewed venom during an interview to OTV in 2019. 

Meanwhile, eight months have passed since Bag went to other state, searching for work. Before going out of the State, he had left his wife at her parents’ house. Back in his house at Khairaguda, his parents are living a miserable life. Without old age pensions, they are having a difficult time keeping the wolf from the door. They are now working as daily wage earners.

“He is always ready to help others. We don’t know where he has gone. But he has left the house saying us that he is going out searching for work. Since we are not getting old age pensions, we have to live on alms,” said Pata Bag, Raju’s mother.  

The picture of most houses being bolted from outside in Khairaguda village speaks volume of the pathetic situation of the village. The villagers have job cards but don’t have works. Benefits under MGNREGS still remain a distant dream. Drought like situation has made the matter worse. 

The villagers alleged Bag had been under the burden of loans since his marriage. “Since he didn’t get any work in the village to feed his families, he has gone somewhere to earn something,” said Pitambar Kuanr, a villager.

A report published by Sambalpur University, a few days ago, states that people are not getting works in several districts of Western Odisha. MGNREGA has also failed there. Cashing in on the situation, middlemen are sending out these jobless people to other states, by paying 30 to 40 percent of agreed amount as advance. The university had advised the State government to work on its proposed 11 points to improve the situation.  

Labour Minister Sushant Singh had also announced a package of Rs 134 crore to provide jobs to people of 30 panchayats of Bolangir and Nuapada districts. But nothing has happened and the fate of the people remains the same. 

Meanwhile, Bolangir MLA Narasingha Mishra hit out at the State government. “The money the block is receiving is not being spent properly, resulting in failure of several schemes and programmes. As a result, the vice-chairman had to leave the State in search of works,” said Mishra.

A BJD leader, Laxman Meher said, “I have no information about where Raju Bag has gone. But linking his disappearance to migration is nothing but an attempt to politicise it. Bolangir MLA is pointing out corruptions in block and district. But the people of the district are well aware of how clean he is.”

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