By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Koraput is among the most beautiful districts of Odisha. Richly endowed by Nature it can fascinate anyone with its lush green forests, gurgling streams, dams and waterfalls. Tribals of the district, who constitute a sizeable chunk of the population, represent a variegated culture with each tribe having its own distinctive customs and traditions reflected even in their costumes and jewellery. Sometimes their innocence is hard to believe.
As a journalist, I have visited Koraput several times. In fact, I filed my first story after landing in Bhubaneswar in 1991 from the district which split later to make way for the creation of three more districts. I drove upto the Koraput town from Vizaynagaram in Andhra Pradesh in a jeep taking in the beauty of the undulating landscape. The journey through the Salur valley was particularly fascinating.
The undivided district was then in the grip of a diarrhoea epidemic which had claimed seventy lives within the space of a few weeks. Koraput was facing an unprecedented health emergency but as far as I can remember I was the only journalist from Bhubaneswar to visit the district. I returned with an excellent story and some great memories which I still cherish.
I relived some of these memories when I visited the district in March-April this year to cover the elections. I took the same Salur valley route via Andhra Pradesh to reach the district headquarters town, passing through villages set amidst hills and forests and talking to people on the way. It was a great experience. The truth is I have thoroughly enjoyed each of my trips to the district which seems to be witnessing a positive change after years of backwardness and under-development. During my last trip to Koraput, I was impressed by the tremendous improvement in the road network and health infrastructure. I found hospitals and health centres to be in much better shape than before though complaints about doctors playing hookey persist in some areas. Education scenario, especially primary education, too, has improved.
The most significant aspect of development in Koraput, however, has been heightened political awareness among its majority tribals. The empowerment of tribals is visible with Kotpad MLA, Padmini Dian scripting history by becoming the first woman minister from the district. She holds the important handlooms, textiles & handicrafts portfolio in Naveen Patnaik ministry.
Last election also saw the emergence of young tribal leaders like Pottangi MLA Pritam Padhi and his Laxmipur counterpart, Prabhu Jani. Equally significant was the election of Congress’s sole Odisha MP, Saptagiri Ulaka from Koraput. Suave, well educated and articulate Spatagiri hails from a well known political family of the district and has a sizeable following among the youth. His father, Ramchandra Ulaka, a former minister, was a highly respected tribal leader who was elected twice to the Lok Sabha and seven times to the state assembly on Congress ticket.
All these are signs of development. Koraput has definitely witnessed a lot of positive development over the years but a lot remains to be done. For example, the district is yet to realize its full potential in the field of tourism. The government needs to accelerate its efforts in this direction. This beautiful district deserves much more attention which, hopefully, it will get in the New Year.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)