This was a protest with a difference. For the first time, tribals of western Odisha demanded jobs, schools, infrastructure and roads for their development at a rally in the State capital on Wednesday.
Fed up with malnutrition, malaria and Maoist menace, tribals form Kalahandi and Rayagada came out in large numbers with demands of development and employment at their congregation near the Raj Bhavan.
The agitators have been greatly hurt by the absence of infrastructural setups in their areas like roads and irrigation structures, absence of schools and hospitals in their villages which has led to much discontent and helplessness. With education and skill development literally nonexistent in their remote villages, the scope for employment remains bleak.
Years after taking an anti-industry stance, things have not improved much for them. They expressed strong opinions against the NGOs who have time and again discouraged them from seeking development in the region. “They have constantly led us to believe that industries are bad for us. We believed them for a long time, but now it has got us nowhere,” said Parmanand Majhi, who is president of the Kalahandi SC/ST Development Forum.
Kalahandi Development Forum convener Dr Ajay Mishra said, “The lure of anti-development NGO driven brigade, which has been dominant in the region, is gradually waning. The villagers, who had been living in fear, have mustered courage to speak out against it due to the efforts of the police in Rayagada and Kalahandi.”
It was evident that these people want to change the dominant narrative of poverty and backwardness in Kalahandi by demanding support from the government. It also indicated the pro-development stance that the tribals and villagers subscribed to after seeing the opportunities that a local industry establishment can offer to the locals.