Rashmi Ranjan

In a strategic move ahead of the 2024 general election, the Odisha government brought 14 more districts under the ambit of the Special Development Council (SDC) during a programme held at Adivasi Ground in Bhubaneswar on Sunday.

With the latest inclusion, 23 districts are now included under the SDC. The new districts which were brought under the SDC are- Balangir, Ganjam, Boudh, Balasore,  Sambalpur, Dhenkanal, Kalahandi, Nayagarh, Nuapada, Angul, Bargarh, Jajpur, Jharsuguda and Deogarh.

Earlier in September 2017, the Odisha government had launched SDC in nine districts.

"With the inclusion of 14 districts, more than 80 lakh people belonging to ST communities from 172 blocks have been brought under the SDC. I hope more research will be conducted on our tribal culture, their approach to life. Empowering tribal is our aim," said CM Naveen Patnaik during the programme.

Meanwhile, the tribal community has termed the move by the Odisha government as political bait ahead of the 2024 general elections.

"The SDC aims at rehabilitating disgruntled leaders of BJD, not for the development of tribal in the State," alleged Chandradhwaja Majhi, a tribal leader.

Seconding Majhi, Parsuram Bhakta, a resident of Malkangiri said, "The Odisha government is just trying to mislead the tribal community with this SDC. No remarkable work has been done by the council yet."

Similarly, the Opposition BJP and Congress alleged the BJD government is just trying to appease the disgruntled leaders of the party by rehabilitating them in the SDC.

"With just 8 months left for the 2024 general election, the BJD has added 14 more districts in the SDC as part of vote bank politics. This is nothing but to rehabilitate the disgruntled party workers," said senior Congress leader Tara Prasad Bahinipati.

Odisha BJP general secretary, Prithviraj Harichandan said, "Even after the SDC came into existence a long back, surprisingly only one meeting of the council could be organised. The BJD has formed SDC to accommodate its leaders as the chairman of the council in different districts."  

Refuting the allegations leveled by the opposition, SDC advisor Pradeep Majhi said, "The council has been working for the betterment of tribal under the guidance of CM Naveen Patnaik."