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Odisha turns 81, identity crisis still haunts border residents

Bhubaneswar/Balasore: Even though Odisha is celebrating its 81st foundation day with much fanfare today in every nook and corner of the country and outside, thousands in the border area of the State are still struggling hard to find their identity even though being Odia by heart, culture and language.

Meet Basant Jena of Sankhamedi village under Bhograi block in Balasore district bordering West Bengal, who has acquired the voter ID, Aadhar card and job card from Odisha government, but failed to avail the benefits of various welfare schemes of State. “I am voting for Odisha. We have voter ID, Aadhar card, job card. But why we are deprived of a house under Indira Awas or Mo Kudia Yojana? Give us our identity. Whether we belong to Odisha or West Bengal. Why we have been left at crossroads for our identity?” Jena asked.

This is not only the problem of Jena only, but thousands residing in the border have the similar tale to tell. They all have raised the question to the Odisha government about their real identity. The last realisation of being Odia for these people was when they paid their revenue to State in 1983. Since then, West Bengal has started spreading wings of hegemony over them.

For educated mass, the land revenue problem creates hurdles in getting of domicile certificate from Odisha. Even as they exercise their electoral franchise for Odisha, West Bengal issues them the residential proof. “Our children are deprived of applying for jobs in absence of residential proof even as they are educated enough for such government job,” Gurubari, a woman of the same area, said.

Bhograi BDO Diptiranjan Sethy said the administration is strictly following the government guidelines. “We construct roads in villages of border area under various schemes. Besides, eligible beneficiaries are being provided with PDS commodities,” Sethy added.

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The problem is not limited only to Odisha-West bengal border. Similar kind of situation is being faced by residents of Kuldiha in Mayurbhanj district, which borders Jharkhand. Be it health care or banking service or shopping, all are fully dependent on Jharkhand. “Till now, Odisha has not given any such facilities. We are depending on Jharkhand market. Even children are going to school and colleges of neighbouring State as these institutions are far from the village,” said Likhiram Kastu, a resident of Kuldiha.

District administration says all facilities are being provided to people. “They are dependant on Jharkhand only for their personal interests. But, we are giving all facilities beginning from registration of birth to education,” said Bholanath Sethy, ADM Rairangpur.

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