Ganjam district and its Hinjli block are going to be awarded as the Best District Panchayat and Best Block Panchayat in the country respectively on April 17. President Droupadi Murmu will present the awards.
In order to find out if the district which is the home turf of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is actually eligible to get the award, OTV visited Digapahandi, represented by former Speaker and Minister Suryo Narayan Patro for the last 23 years.
Ghatiamba village was taken as a case in point. It seems development has bypassed the village, surrounded by hills and jungles. It wouldn’t be exaggerated if the beaten path leading to the village is called a death trap. But the villagers have no option but to use this serpentine and treacherous path to fetch PDS rice.
In case someone falls ill or a pregnant woman requires medical attention, the villagers face the real problem. The only option left with them is to carry the patient on a cot.
During the interaction, the OTV team came to know that for the villagers, getting a house under Awas Yojana is a distant dream for them. Similarly, safe drinking water has long been on the villagers' wish list.
OTV team met one named Lambodar Paika who was returning home from the Panchayat office, carrying a rice bag on his shoulders.
“I went to the Panchayat office to get PDS rice. To reach the Panchayat office, we have to trek a 6-kilometre-long ghat road. During elections, leaders promise us the moon and stars. But after the elections are over, they appear once in a blue moon,” said Paika.
A villager, Nandini Paika, came forward to narrate what difficulties they are facing to get a pitcher full of water.
“Every day we cover a distance of two kilometres (to and fro) to fetch water. And I don’t have a house. The Sarpanch has promised me to allot me a house under Awas Yojana. But my wait seems never to end,” rued Nandini.
OTV team’s next stoppage was Saru village. The village is under Hinjli block, represented by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
As the team entered the village, some locked houses welcomed them. Investigation revealed that the occupants have migrated to Surat, Chennai and Hyderabad in search of work. They return once a year to their village, at the time of the festival. There are several instances that many of these migrant labourers couldn’t return alive.
During the interaction, the villagers complained that the promises of irrigation, cold storage and employment at industries made to them proved to be hollow.
The OTV team didn’t take much time to figure out how much the district and the block are developed.
“Most of the villagers are away in Mumbai and Surat. What is the use of being the Chief Minister’s Assembly constituency? Hinjli is devoid of any industry. With no option left, I am working at a Mumbai-based company,” said Bikram Padhi, while venting his ire.
Meanwhile, the Opposition targeted the BJD-led dispensation.
“Not even an inch of land has been irrigated. Not a single industry has been set up. Hinjli is notorious for migrant labourers. Such awards are obtained through false reports,” alleged Bibhuti Jena, District BJP President, Ganjam.
Congress leader Sambhu Panigrahi said, “They (BJD) are only spreading false news and the irony is that people too believe them. If they (BJD) identify any Panchayat which is free from corruption, I will quit politics for good.”
Going to protect his party, District BJD president Ramesh Chau Patnaik said, “Naveen Patnaik is giving emphasis to Odisha as well as Ganjam district. Ganjam district has been adjudged as the best district. The award is given by the Central government. They have chosen Ganjam after carrying out a detailed study.”