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Rashmi Rekha Das

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced Special Development Councils (SDCs) in nine tribal dominated districts in September 2017. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, SDCs were set up in the districts having 50 per cent tribal population.

The councils were formed with key objectives of conservation and propagation of tribal culture, recognition of indigenous knowledge, documentation of tribal culture, tradition and practices, identification of tribal resources and promotion of tribal language and dialects. 

However, these SDCs set up in nine districts such as Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Koraput, Rayagada and Malkangiri are allegedly lying defunct.

The State government had spent crores for SDCs which are of no use now, alleged opposition leaders.

For the last three years, SDCs are lying in a state of coma thanks to the indifferent attitude of the State government towards tribals, they alleged.

Take the example of Special Development Council office of Malkangiri, Nabarangpur and Rayagada. SDC offices in these districts have not been functioning for the last three years. And, it is alleged that the government hardly bothers to recruit chairman in these offices.

It is alleged that the Koraput-based SDC office is being run by the District Project Coordinator and a peon. None has been recruited to the post of chairman since 2019. Funds to the sum of Rs 42 crore have been allocated during the financial year 2017-18 and 2018-19 for the SDC out of which Rs 21 crore has not been used.

Similarly, two peons are there to run SDC office of Malkangiri. Following the retirement of the then chairman Manas Madakami, none has been hired to the post.

Interestingly, SDC office in Rayagada district has been locked after running for two years from a rented house. 

The SDC office of Nabarangpur has the same fate. It was being operated from a rented house for some period of time before being shut. As a result, SDC office documents and other office articles are gathering dust at ITDA office, Nabarangpur. 

At a time when Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in a letter to Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda, has reiterated the demand for the inclusion of more than 160 communities of Odisha into the ST (Schedule Tribe) list of the State, the government’s lack of concern for SDCs has been criticised by the Opposition leaders.

Bhrugu Baxipatra, vice-president of the State wing of Bharatiya Janata Party said, “The State government has no linking with SDCs. The government takes up such initiative just to settle BJD leaders and appease people.”

However, BJD leader and Minister Jagannath Saraka said, “Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is very much concerned about tribal development. He had taken several initiatives earlier and will do in future too. When it comes to SDCs, he will take a suitable decision for sure.”

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