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Utkal Dibasa is a special day for every Odia. Today, the day is being celebrated with much fanfare across the State.
But what ails the Odias is that the Odia language is struggling for its survival in the areas bordering the neighbouring state of Jharkhand. At a time when the government is making tall claims to promote and preserve Odia language, the ground reality in bordering areas like Saraikela and Kharsawan is telling a different tale.
Saraikela and Kharsawan were once two Odia-speaking princely states and were two of the 26 Garhjats which made up the State of Odisha. During the time of the re-organisation (of states) exercise in 1948, these two princely states were clubbed with the erstwhile Bihar state. Now they are part of Jharkhand State after bifurcation.
Most importantly, about 70 percent of people here speak Odia language. But they are facing a lot of trouble as Odia books have continuously been out of their reach.
“In the schools in this part of the Jharkhand State, there is no Odia teacher to teach Odia language. Odia books are also not available here. We are teaching students by translating from Hindi books,” said Reetarani Nanda, an Utkal Sammilani teacher.
Expressing her concern, Abhipriya Pani, a Class VI student of a school in Kharsawan said, “I want to study in Odia. But I can’t, because we don’t have Odia books and teachers.”
Another place is Gunupur town in Rayagada district, which is facing a similar fate.
Even though the town is in Odisha, the dominance of Andhra Pradesh is quite evident here as it shares its border with the State. The signboards of the business establishments and shops here are written in Hindi and Telugu. One can hardly get any signboard written in Odia.
The residents of this town admitted that Odia language is being neglected in this part of the State.
“Had the government taken initiatives to sensitise businessmen to put up Odia signboards, the language could at least have been survived in signboards,” rued Indrakshi Prasad Dash, a Gunupur resident.
Some residents expressed concern about the name of the city being mentioned and pronounced differently.
“As the town is full of Gunas (qualities), it is called Gunapur. But with the passage of time, the name has also been changed. While some are pronouncing it as ‘Gunpur’, some others are referring it as “Gunupur’. It deeply hurts us,” said Umashankar Das, a resident of Gunapur.
(Reported by Indrajit Panda and Jyoti Ranjan Barik, OTV)