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Orissa: Budget for regional balance required
Regional imbalance found in between costal border, the region having direct access to sea, and western border, interior region largely bordering central India, is apparent and calls for sufficient budget in accordance to the geographical conditions
UNLIKE DURING election mapping, geographical area needs to be seriously considered for any sorts of developments in roads, bridges, railways, number of schools/hospitals etc. Otherwise large part of the region having relatively low population density remains inaccessible due to lack of sufficient budget provision compared to its volume/size. This is well reflected in the regional imbalance found in between costal border Orissa (CBO), the region having direct access to sea and western border Orissa (WBO), the interior region largely bordering to central India (Chhattisgarh state), in Orissa.

Here CBO is defined instead of regional divisions like Costal, South, Northern or Western Orissa as CBO includes ten districts bordering to the sea, Balasore, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Jagatisingpur, Jajpur, Kendrapada, Khordha, Puri, Nayagarh, Ganjam and Gajpati. Historically all over the world and especially in India, costal belt has been always economically sound relative to interior region probably due to importance of sea coast in trade and because of opportunities sea give directly to human. Orissa is not different from it.

Moreover, population, higher literacy rate, political power in ruling government such as CM and his coterie and the number of elected members such as MPs and MLAs give additional advantage to CBO in comparison to rest of the Orissa state.

To bring prosperity to the multi-facet backward region of undivided Kalahandi, Balangir and Koraput (KBK) districts in Orissa Union government of India had formulated KBK project in early 1990s in the form of Long Term Action Plan (LTAP), which was modified as Revised Long Term Plan (RLTAP) later on. Despite the fact that the proposed project has not yet achieved its goal completely, Union government of India has reduced the funding of RLTAP from 250 crore to 150 crore annually, since past few years without considering the growing inflation of past decade, the decision alleged to be political. To compensate the deficiency, the Orissa state government announced similar Biju KBK Yojana in 2006-07 for the region.

In another development, countering public dissatisfaction over regional imbalance in the whole western Orissa districts, including Sundergarh, Jharsuguda, Deogarh, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Athamallick sub-division of Angul, Boudh, Sonepur, Balangir, Nuapanda and Kalahandi, the state government had established Western Orissa Development Council (WODC) in 2001 aiming to minimise regional imbalance in the state level.

Largely, budget allotted by the state government for WODC and Biju KBK Yojana is invested in the form of infrastructure, education and health care development in those localities.

As per recent census, population of CBO is 2.4 times higher than that of KBK and 1.96 times higher than that of WODC regions, whereas geographical area of CBO is 1.24 times smaller than that of KBK and 1.36 times smaller than that of WODC regions.

Additionally, literacy rate of WODC is 4.8 per cent lower than that of average of Orissa state and 11.5 per cent lower than that of CBO. In case of KBK literacy is 19.7 per cent lower than that of average of Orissa state and 26.4 per cent lower than that of CBO.

Distress figures are also obtained while comparing Western Border Orissa (WBO) by including WODC, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Malkangiri and Kandhamal districts together with that of average of Orissa state or CBO.

The literacy rate of WBO is 11 per cent and 18 per cent lower than that of average Orissa state and CBO respectively, similarly geographical area of WBO is 2.24 times larger than that of CBO.

This means WBO needs 2.24 time higher investment in roads and 18 per cent higher investment in education, which may be around 10 -20 per cent of the state budget as additional funds.

More to it, the qualitative assessment (quantitative figures are not available) based on official map gives CBO advantage over WBO in length of state highways per every 1000 km in Orissa. Unlike many other states all most all the proposed Central government sponsored national institutions or hospitals are being established in CBO, particularly in Bhubaneswar-Cuttack region, except one Central University in Koraput since past decade.

WBO has got only one state government medical college and CBO has two. Apart from that not a single government medical college was established in the WBO region in past decade whereas the state is proposing two more government medical colleges in addition to an AIIMS type hospital in CBO, widening the gap between CBO and WBO in secondary health sector further. State government was also in no mood to upgrade regional diagnostic centres present in interior, backward and tribal belt at Kalahandi, Koraput, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj to government medical colleges, the way capital hospital in Bhubaneswar was done.      

Total budget for the state Government of Orissa in the current financial year 2009-10, is estimated as 35,000 crore where budget allotted for Biju KBK Yojana (BKBKY) and WODC is 120 crores (0.34 per cent) and 80 crore (0.23 per cent) respectively.

Unfortunately, such budget allotment is always fixed without considering inflation and volume of the state budget.

With current rate of 0.57 per cent (0.34 per cent BKBKY + 0.23 per cent WODC) subsidiary budget it would take several decades, if not a century, to minimize regional difference between CBO and WBO within Orissa.

To minimise regional imbalance in foreseen future at least 5 -7 per cent of state budget should be pumped in WBO as subsidiary towards infrastructure development in roads, bridges, health and education in the region. This of course would bring employment and migration of educated people from CBO to other backward parts in the state making Orissa richer in its culture and encouraging regional tolerance.
A fraction of the budget of regional balance would not bring any thing in near future other than a political eye wash.

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