Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Many political analysts are of the opinion that the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is trying to politicise the emotive issues of the public interest in Odisha to woo voters ahead of the 2024 general and assembly elections. After the renovation of mutts and temples and spending crores of rupees on publicity, the ruling party is trying to draw political mileage by making use of Odia language.

As per reports, the three-day-long, first-of-its-kind ‘Biswa Odia Bhasa Sammilani’ will be held in Bhubaneswar starting from February 3. During the conclave, the government has planned several programmes in rural and urban areas across the State with a budget provision of around Rs100 crore. 

According to many political analysts, after making use of God, the ruling party seems to be keen to get political dividends from the language conclave. During the sammilani, competitions will be held in schools and colleges. Apart from students, their guardians will be encouraged to take part in the competitions. Moreover, linguists and writers from across the country and abroad will take part in the first ‘Biswa Odia Bhasa Sammilani’. 

‘Vande Utkal Janani’ will be sung across the State at 11.30 am on the inaugural day of ‘Biswa Odia Bhasa Sammilani’. Different programmes will be held at the panchayat and district levels. Rs 20,000 and Rs 50,000 have been allocated for the panchayat and district-level programmes respectively. Members of Self Help Groups taking part in the programme will be provided Rs 20,000 through SHG block federations. The decision to hold the sammilani was taken in the heritage cabinet in 2017, but it could not be implemented then. The decission to this efffcet was again approved in the heritage cabinet meeting in 2023. 

“It has been decided in the heritage cabinet that Biswa Odia Bhasa Sammilani’ will be held at Janata Maidan in Bhubaneswar for three days from February 3-5,” said Odisha Culture Minister Aswini Patra.

Meanwhile, the linguists have put a question mark over the delayed organisation of the sammilani. 

“Will the Bhasa Sammilani fulfill the purpose of many useful researches about Odia language? Had it been organised in 2017, the impact would have been much better,” said linguist Dr Subrat Prusty.

The government is giving advertisements to the tunes of crores of rupees for the upcoming ‘Biswa Odia Bhasa Sammilani’. However, the Opposition parties slammed the State government for the abrupt love for Odia language.

As per the opposition parties, the government is on the back foot due to the governance by non-Odia people in the State and to counter it Bhasa Sammilani has been organised.

“After ruling Odisha for 23 years, the BJD thought about Odia language now. Even Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik can’t speak a few words in Odia to date. They are only diverting the attention of the people by organising the Bhasa Sammilani ahead of the election by spending crores of rupees,” said BJP leader Lekhasri Samantsinghar.

“Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and 5T Secretary VK Pandian should first speak in Odia. The officials managing the Bhasa Sammilani have not read even ‘Barnabodha’. It’s only a farce by the government,” said Congress leader Suresh Routray.

However, BJD refuted the allegations by Opposition parties and termed them as intolerant. 

“It’s a matter of great pleasure if we can take our mother tongue to each and every village in the State. The Opposition parties couldn’t learn anything from Naveen Patnaik,” said BJD leader Bhupinder Singh.

Even though it has been mandatory to write signboards of all shops and commercial establishments in Odia from 2018, it is yet to be implemented strictly. Moreover, office work in government offices is yet to be done in Odia language.