Posts filed under ‘Poverty and Hunger in Koshal region’

How a 75-year-old tribal man grew a forest in Kalahandi

Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Forest officials say the work by Majhi and local tribals in Kalahandi is an important step in guarding the forest resources.

The septuagenarian Kondh tribal from Kalahandi’s Boringpadar village may not have studied much, but has brought cheer and hope to a place where death is an annual feature.

In 1979, Majhi started planting sapling on the 97 acre barren land adjoining a hillock near his village with support from the Nehru Yuva Kendra. Villagers who used to grow millet on that land had no idea what Majhi was up to, but grudgingly came around to support him for next three years.

Some 35 years later, the 97 acres of once-barren land near his village is home to a luxuriant forest consisting of Sal, Teak, Acacia, Chakunda and several other timber and fruit-bearing trees. In the process, he showed the ability of free Indians to battle the most adverse of circumstances, and the transformation that takes place when society and state collaborate.

Epicentre of starvation

Kalahandi in the 60s was known as Ethiopia of India for its acute starvation triggered by long periods of drought. After a particularly protracted spell of drought in 70s and 80s that forced poor parents to sell their children, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the region. While its forested landscape was being slowly eroded by timber smugglers who valued the rich Kalahandi teak, the shifting cultivation of tribals took its toll on the forest cover

“When I was young I came to realise that without rains we would not have any hope. My father told me that the only way we can have regular rains is through forests,” said Majhi. This was the time when a young Majhi got serious about ways to prevent drought.

An old picture showing Manjhi and others planting saplings (HT photo)

 

With some handholding by local forest officials and help from Nehru Yuva Kendra in Bhawanipatna, Majhi and his elder brother Bali through Boringpadar Yuvak Sangha started planting saplings on the barren land, that was recorded as forest in government files. Soon the rest of the villagers joined in. The remunerations were not great – all that the villagers got was a sack of potatoes and two sacks of rice.

“At times when people were not willing to go for planting, I used to mortgage my umbrella and utensils at home to pay people and a security guard to keep an eye on the saplings,” said Majhi, standing next to a sal tree which he planted. Tejiraj Pradhan, a young farmer, still remembers how he used to plant saplings with Kartik mausa.

The transformation

Ten years later as the saplings grew in length, the once-barren area sported a different look. “It was like seeing a desert bloom,” said Majhi’s friend Kirtan Majhi.

Impressed with his work in creating a forest out of a barren land, the forest department in late 90s entrusted Boringpadar Yuvak Sangh the task of looking after the 500 hectares of reserve forest near his village. The villagers also keep an eye on another 500 hectares of forest near the hills adjacent to the village.

Forest officials say the work by Majhi and local tribals in Kalahandi is an important step in guarding the forest resources.

“Creating a forest and guarding can never be done by the forest department if individuals like Majhi are not involved. A forest guard is supposed to guard an area of 20-25 km. Is it possible on his part to keep an eye on so large an area,” asked Suresh Pant, regional chief conservator of forests of Bhawanipatna.

Preserving the legacy

Despite efforts by Majhi, old-timers of the district are not so hopeful of seeing the luxuriant forest cover of mid-80s when 50% of its geographical area was under forest cover. The last Forest Survey of India published in 2015, put the forest cover at 30%. “The success of people like Majhi is important, but it’s very difficult to get back what we lost,” said former Kalahandi MP Bhakta Charan Das.

Now 75, Majhi can’t walk properly and has problems in his sight. But his son Shankar seems to have inherited his father’s legacy as he goes to the forest with his friends to keep an eye on anyone cutting forests. This year a dozen villagers entered the reserve forest area and tried to cut the trees. They were promptly fined Rs 6,000 by the Yuvak Sangh volunteers.

Majhi says forests are intrinsic to the well-being of tribals. “We can’t always travel to the hospital in Narla block, which is 15 km away. If we suffer from malaria, we take crushed leaves of Nyctanthes, black pepper mixed with honey. The forests give us everything. Jungle is mangal for us,” said Majhi.

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August 14, 2017 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

Separate budget for Kosal region demanded

Following is a report from the Sambad:
budget

March 3, 2017 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

Poverty – A Way Of Life In Odisha’s Kalahandi

Written By: Saurabh Gupta| Edited By: Richa Taneja

Kalahandi tribals
According to government figures, Rs 3000 crore has been spent in Kalahandi since 1980s.

Kalahandi, Odisha: In 1984, Phanus Punji, the poor woman from Kalahandi in Odisha had sold her sister-in-law Banita for Rs 40 and a saree to feed other members of her family. Then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had to fly down to Kalahandi to see for himself the poverty in which people lived in.

The government then floated KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) special scheme and pumped in huge funds. But, 30 years later, the gut-wrenching tale of Dana Majhi, who carried his wife’s body on his shoulders for 10 km as he had no money to afford a hearse van, has put Kalahandi back into the limelight.

Government schemes not implemented

Mr Majhi wouldn’t have had to go through the ordeal had he availed two government schemes. The Harishchandra Scheme by the government, that provides money for funerals for the poor and was introduced in 2013. And the Mahaprayan Scheme that provides free hearse service to transport bodies that was announced in February and launched after Majhi’s wife’s death.

Government figures from the last financial year show that spending under the Harishchandra scheme in Kalahandi is among the lowest even though the district ranks eleventh in terms of population.

This perhaps is why Dana Majhi, a tribal, took the decision to walk home with his wife’s body. The story is similar in the entire Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region, an area that has seen acute poverty. Mr Majhi admitted he did not know what to do and did not seek any help from anyone.

In 2006, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj named Kalahandi as one of the country's 250 most backward districts.
In 2006, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj named Kalahandi as one of the country’s 250 most backward districts.

Tribals don’t receive money from National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme alleges Opposition:

Narsingh Mishra, Leader of Opposition from Bolangir said, “In Odisha, the payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme have not been made for the last six months. This is leading to more and more poverty in the region.”

Mishra said, “Funds for the development of this region have been misused and misappropriated. Therefore, the region has remained where it is.”

“In some cases, funds from this scheme have been used for purchase of vehicles and beautification of buildings in Bhubaneswar and some district headquarters. Will that eradicate poverty?” Mishra asked.

Politicians visit, schemes floated but no action on ground

In 2006, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj named Kalahandi as one of the country’s 250 most backward districts. In 2016, Kalahandi’s situation hasn’t got any better. According to government figures, Rs 3000 crore has been spent in the area since 1980s. Several schemes were announced in the past and high profile politicians had visited the place.

However, the region still lacks basic facilities like roads and telephone connectivity.

Former Railway minister and Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das told NDTV, “At a time when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is talking about digital India and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is talking about developing Odisha, we are seeing such a shameful incident where an adivasi walked 10 km with his wife’s dead body.”

The BJP Yuva Morcha also held a protest and said, “Naveen Patnaik only announces schemes but no work gets done. Rahul Gandhi comes here only to get photos but does no work on the ground.”

If someone is ill, they are carried on a makeshift stretcher on foot.
If someone is ill, they are carried on a makeshift stretcher on foot.

Maoist insurgency and the challenge of accessibility

For tribals in Kalahandi, accessibility is a huge challenge. Due to Maoist insurgency, building roads in these parts of the country is difficult. The last two years have seen 15 gun battles between Maoists and security forces.

With poor connectivity, Mr Majhi and his wife had to walk to Nagrundi, 4 km from his village from where the only available transport is a rickety bus to the main road.

Ramchandra Naik, a resident of the area told NDTV, “If someone is ill, they are carried on a makeshift stretcher on foot.”

District Magistrate and Collector Dr Brundha D said, “If you compare with the 1980s, a lot of development has taken place. We are focusing on road and mobile connectivity because if these two things happen, I can monitor all schemes and reach people closely.”

Despite the fact that fertile tracts of the district have shown improvement in socio-economic indicators, the implementation of schemes, programmes and services on the ground is the real challenge that the government faces today.

September 9, 2016 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment

A damning Indictment of Odisha’s inefficiency

Following report is from the TNIE:

The Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 has in one stroke not only demolished Odisha’s growth story spun by the Naveen Patnaik government over the past one-and-a-half decade but also laid bare an embarrassing failure of its much-vaunted welfare and poverty alleviation schemes. It cannot be a more damning indictment of the inefficiency than the fact that more than 66 per cent of the population in rural Odisha still continues to languish in acute deprivation without access to basic needs such as food, housing or income generation means. The findings of the census has countered and exposed the hollowness of the government’s claims at every point.

While the State Finance Minister  painted a glowing picture of the socio-economic rise over the last decade, projecting a growth of eight per cent in 2015-16, the census report has presented a worrying scene. Over 46.6 lakh (54 per cent) of the total 86.22 lakh rural households are landless and 23 lakh households have only one room with kutcha roof to shelter whole families. A whopping 87 per cent households manage with a measly income of less than Rs 5,000 a month. In the face of the Government’s claims that poverty has been reduced by almost 25 per cent and socio-economic conditions for a vast chunk of the population have been improved, Odisha has been ranked among the top four states in the country in terms of beggary with over 54,000 households depending on it while as many as 22,353 households resort to rag-picking and rummaging garbage dumps for their livelihood. Further, almost 59 per cent of the total households are engaged in manual and casual labour.

The census practically serves as a report card on the schemes and measures implemented by the government, revealing their failings and fissures. Despite the flagship Rs 1-a-kilo rice scheme, claimed to cover over 58 lakh households, and programmes for housing, irrigation, farm assistance, skill development and employment generation, the poverty and deprivation situation has not improved as much. The government should re-examine the schemes to reach the beneficiaries at every level and draw up strategies for more focused implementation of poverty alleviation and development programmes.

July 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

Employment scheme; a failure in Balangir

Following is a report from TNIE:

Lalit Bhoi of Badbanki village in Turekela block in the district has decided to migrate in search of job as he is not able to get work even after applying for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Similarly, Surdas Pradhan of Bijamal village in Muribahal block feels that he would migrate if he would not be able to get work under the flagship scheme soon.

Bhoi and Pradhan are not solitary instances of poverty stricken people unable to get the benefits of MGNREGS. In fact, the MGNREGS, aimed at providing employment to rural poor, has miserably failed in the district.

According to sources, 2,72,527 households in the district have been issued job cards. Out of them, 61,339 households applied for works in 2013-14 and 47,393 households have been provided work till now.

While in the present month, 5,904 households are engaged in work, 2,086 households have completed 100 days of work. Among those who completed 100 days of work, 463 households were linked to the housing schemes like Indira Awaas Yojana. According to latest estimate, about 68.2 per cent of the budget for the scheme has been spent till now including labour payment and construction work.

The major road blocks in implementation of MNREGS are non-payment and delayed payment of wages to the labourers and shortage of field staff for preparation of muster rolls. Sources said people are not getting work during lean period. They also alleged that the officials were providing work as per their whims and caprices.

As per a conservative estimate, more than one lakh people have migrated in search of livelihood from the district to other places in and outside the State. The district has also more than 1,000 certified bonded labourers.

According to a survey of Western Odisha Migration Network (WOMN), a network of civil society organisations and academicians working in the district, more than 80,000 people from Bangomunda, Turekela, Belpara, Muribahal, Saintala and Khaprakhol blocks have already migrated.

“Balangir is a poor and migration prone district. MGNREGS has all the ingredients to address labour migration due to acute poverty and unemployment. However, to realise the same, the administration needs to identify the vulnerable people and implement MGNREGS during the lean period. But it has failed to provide timely works as well as the payments,” said Jatin Kumar Patra, an activist working on the issue.

Project Director of Balangir DRDA Pabitra Mandal said the administration is taking steps to provide work in all the revenue villages. “We are preparing plans and very soon the works will start,” he said.

December 26, 2013 at 1:31 am Leave a comment

Plight of the “migrant labourers” of Kalahandi and Nuapada districts

Following report is from the Sambad:
Kalahandi

December 22, 2013 at 10:37 am 2 comments

Free training for migrant labourers kids at Institute of Hotel Management, Balangir

Following report is from TOI:

BHUBANESWAR: The State Institute of Hotel Management in Balangir has decided to train children of migrant labourers of the district in food production and food and beverage services to check further migration. After training, they would be employed in the local hospitality industry. Those, who have studied at least up to Class VIII, and have attained the age of 18, will be eligible for the free-of-cost training.

“The programme is being started keeping in mind the large-scale migration that Balangir district witnesses every year. We will go to the migration-prone areas to identify eligible candidates from among the children of migrant labourers,” said Chandrakanta Mohapatra, principal of the institute.

While the food production training will be of two-month duration, food and beverage services training will continue for one and a half months. The training programme will be free of cost with the Centre sponsoring it under its ‘Hunar Se Rojgar’ scheme.

“We have the capacity to train 350 students, all of whom will be from the migration-prone belt. However, others who fit in the eligibility criteria can also join the training. Out of Rs 27 lakhs funded by the Centre, Rs 13 lakh will be spent on the training, said the principal. He also said more children would be gradually incorporated into the programme under the state government’s Nijukti mission. A total of 375 students might be accommodated by the end of March, said the principal.

‘After the training programme is over, we will ask hoteliers to recruit the trained youths. Since urban Balangir has many good hotels, there won’t be any problem in placement,” said Suresh Kumar, a trainer. He said free uniform, tools, food and accommodation will be provided to the trainees. After completing the training, students will have the option to be self employed as well.

The food craft institute was up-graded into a hotel management institute in Balangir to boost up tourism and hospitality industry in the region and generate local employment. Earlier, the institute has set a record in giving training to roadside dhaba owners across the district.

October 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm 2 comments

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