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Column: Swabhiman Anchal Has Nothing To Be Proud Of

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By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Trouble is brewing in Malkangiri’s “swabhiman anchal”, a benighted hinterland which got its new moniker following the inauguration of Gurupriya bridge by chief minister, Naveen Patnaik last year. The bridge that linked what was once officially known as the ‘cut-off’ area comprising 151 villages with the mainland after a gap of over five decades symbolized new hope. It was supposed to usher in development for a people who have been living under the shadow of Maoist guns.

Throwing the bridge open to public the chief minister had also announced a special package for the area which got severed from the mainland when the Machkund reservoir and Balimela Hydro Power Project came into existence several decades ago. With boats as their only means of communication with the mainland people of this ‘cut-off’ area faced all kinds of hardships. There were neither good roads nor hospitals. Education of children, too, was a problem.

Government schemes hardly reached the area where Maoists ruled. A few feeble attempts at bringing government-sponsored projects to the area petered out in the wake of kidnapping of the then Malkangiri collector, R. Vineel Krishna from this belt in 2011. The construction of the bridge itself was delayed inordinately because of the fear of Maoists who chased away contractors.

But hopes of development have been belied with nothing significant happening on the ground in the “swabhiman anchal” more than a year after it was given its new name following the inauguration of the bridge. Consequently, people are getting restless. They want good roads, schools and hospitals and most of all freedom from the fear of the Maoists.

The bridge that saw the light of the day thanks to the round the clock security provided to the workers and engineers by BSF jawans was supposed to be a major milestone in state’s war against the rebels who have turned Malkangiri and Koraput districts into their fortresses. For the first time in five decades it gave security forces road access to this difficult terrain bordering Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. They were expected to scale up their offensive against the ultras who have their training camps in the forests and hills of “swabhiman anchal.”

But so far the area has neither seen any significant developmental initiative nor any major offensive against the Maoists who continue to operate in this belt with virtual impunity. They have been using this area as a major base to launch operations even in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

One can understand the sense of disillusionment among the people whose hopes had soared following the inauguration of the bridge and the promises made by the government. To make things worse there have been other developments in the recent past that put a question mark over the government’s ability to provide security to the residents of “swabhiman anchal.” One cannot blame them if they continue to feel cut off despite the change in area’s name.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are 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)

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