Out of the six Lok Sabha constituencies going to polls in the fourth phase of elections in Odisha on April 29, Mayurbhanj is a tribal populated district and the other five constituencies are coastal districts. The main issues all these constituencies share are agrarian crisis and unemployment.
Most of these places are still dependent on monsoons for irrigation, and lack cold storage facilities. Though the central and state governments have come up with programmes like PM-KISAN and KALIA scheme to address farmers’ plight, there hasn’t been a single discussion on the minimum support price of the farm produce.
The other major issue is unemployment. The Mayurbhanj and Kendrapada constituencies do not have any major factories or industrial establishments, Hence, the employment opportunities are sparse in these constituencies. A huge number of youths go from these districts to other parts of the country to work as bonded labourers.
The tribals of Mayurbhanj are still fighting to get rights over land under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and the non-tribal forest dwellers are suffering even worse. The rejection of claims on the forest land is the highest in this district, and only 4% of the households have been given the land titles, as per a report in Down to Earth. Irrigation is another issue because of which the cost of crop production rises. The productivity of the land in this area is high even with usage of fewer fertilisers. However, rarely do the farmers get a just price for their yield. Most of the daily wage labourers earn less than Rs 150 a day. The area also doesn’t have enough MGNREGA appointments.
The marine fishers of Kendrapada and Balasore comprise a major part of Mayurbhanj’s population. They are dependent on fishing for their livelihood. However, they are allowed to fish only during the four months of monsoon every year due to the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles in the area. The government is yet to take any initiative to solve their problem.
A rail line was supposed to be constructed connecting Bhadrak’s Basudevpur to Kendrapada. This demand had been raised by the CPI(M) for a long time, but the project has not been completed yet.
Bhadrak district has a very small number of small-scale industries and is home to the Dhamra port. Other than this, it has no other scope of employment. Many of these unemployed youth migrate to states like Gujarat to work as bonded labourers. Due to the corrupt government officials, the city is facing a serious water crisis. The negligible profit from agriculture and frequent power cuts are some of the other important issues that need to be addressed immediately.
In another district of Odisha, Jajpur, despite the presence of major industries, employment is allegedly given to outsiders, and not the locals. Even after being one of the most important industrial hubs of Odisha, Jajpur saw death of 19 children in 2016 due to malnourishment. Both the districts (Bhadrak and Jajpur) have government schools with inadequate staff and teachers which has become responsible for the flourishing of private schools. Government hospitals are in a really bad condition
According to Dibyasingha Nayak, a lawyer based in Bhadrak, the district has a lot of scope for establishment of agricultural university which has never been considered by any government. The major government offices of the district like Labour office, Excise office, etc. are being run in rented houses.
With the BJP-led central government and BJD-led state government not being of any help, the people have to take decisions wisely, and elect the correct alternative in the upcoming elections.