Cassian Baliarsingh

Unabated distress migration and lack of big projects continue to haunt Ganjam, the home turf of former CM Naveen Patnaik, depriving it of the real development the district needed. Going by the stunted growth of the district, the impregnable fortress seems to have achieved very little in the last 24 years of BJD rule.

A glaring example is the plight of the ambitious Ghodahad Dam, the lifeline of the farmers of the district. Built in 1978, the dam was constructed for irrigation of thousands of hectares of farmland with a water capacity of 3052 cubic feet. Once upon a time, the dam would provide water to around 7856 hectares of farmland.

However, due to the sheer apathy of the previous government, the dam is dying a slow death and has almost turned into a barren land. Due to lack of maintenance, there is only 2% water remaining in the dam. Similar is the condition of the ambitious Chelligada Irrigation Project. With a whopping budget of Rs 25cr, the ‘bhoomi puja’ of the project was conducted in 2003. However, it is yet to see the light of the day even as 11 years have passed by. 

Lalatendu Pradhan, a Digapahandi resident said, “Why did the water dry? What is the reason behind it? It has never been too late. So the government should take immediate steps in this regard so that our future generation does not suffer like us.”

“Due to apathy by the administration, the ambitious project has been hanging in balance and is progressing at a very slow pace. If this continues, crores of rupees will go down the drain and will be of no benefit to anyone,” said another resident Asheshnath Mishra.

Similarly, the Janibili mega drinking water project, built at a cost of Rs 500 crore in Berhampur, has remained a nonstarter even long years after its inception as people hardly get proper drinking water till now. Moreover, at least 3700 acres of land were provided to Tata in 1996 for a big project. That has also remained a non-starter till now.

Talking about employment, hundreds of small companies and factories are sealed now, leaving youths in the lurch. With the highest number of people migrating from here, Ganjam has earned the status of migration district in the state.

“We study in Odisha, but have to depend on other states like Surat, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kerala, and Mumbai among many others for jobs due to the lack of opportunities here. People are forced to go out of the district due to the lack of industries, factories and other job-providing companies, " said Saroj Gouda, Khallikote resident.

Another Khallikote resident Dwarikanath Maharana said, “The previous government miserably failed in creating jobs for the youths of Odisha. Their schemes were only limited to pen and paper, but never really reached the masses.”

“The vision of PM Modi is only development. So, our focus is only on development and we will complete the incomplete and pending projects and also come up with new ones. There are plans for water parks,” said K. Anil Kumar, MLA, Berhampur. 

However, Ganjam District BJD President, Dr. Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik hit back and denied the allegations that no development took place during Naveen’s 24-year rule. “There was rapid development during the rule of former Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. We have constructed roads to all the villages and provided drinking water facilities, especially in Khallikote, Gopalpur, and Bhanjanagar. We have also built a huge park in Bhanjanagar," he said.

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