In a major move towards boosting the economy of Odisha's Kalahandi district, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday, January 14, inaugurated and laid the foundation for a number of developmental projects worth over ₹2,000 crores.
BusinessWorld reported that while focussing on agriculture and irrigation projects, Patnaik laid down the foundation of 52 projects worth ₹1,020 crores and launched 57 schemes worth ₹1,064 crores during his first-ever public gathering since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Kalahandi has earned a reputation for being one of the 'poorest' districts in India. However, the Chief Minister said that his government's continued efforts have turned it from a 'laboratory of poverty' to a 'model of development' in the entire country.
He further stated that due to its biggest contribution to agriculture, Kalahandi has transformed itself to become a 'rice bowl' sustaining a larger ecosystem.
"While Kalahandi is the second-largest rice producer in the state, it is also supplying rice to the country's public distribution system. The Kalahandi alone is supplying as much rice as the 10 states supplying rice to the central treasury. All this is possible because of the strong willpower of the farmers and the people of Kalahandi," he added.
The Indravati river has played a key role in the transformation process. The Upper Indravati Lift Canal system was one of the most important projects amongst the 57 that were given a green signal by the minister.
The irrigation project has been built with a cost outlay of ₹986.71 crores. It comprises of 43.26 km of concrete canals and 1,142 km of underground pipelines and has the capacity to irrigate 25,275 hectares of cropland in Koksara, Dharmagarh and Jaypatna block in the district. Sources have said that it will cater to the needs of over three lakh farmers of 87 villages in these blocks.
10 drinking water projects, 13 check dams, food parks, power feed lines, and roads and bridges were also launched by the Chief Minister.
"Irrigation facilities have tripled. Kalahandi has become the best performing district in the country in health and nutrition. It also has the status of the best district in the country in terms of fish farming," mentioned CM Patnaik.
Referring to the infant and maternal mortality rates, which were 76 and 432 in the year 2000, he said that the numbers have drastically improved due to strategic intervention of the state government. Additionally, a sum of ₹1,200 crores has also been disbursed directly to the bank accounts of the farmers residing in Kalahandi during the paddy procurement season, according to the minister.
Progress: Real or on papers?
A 2019 report of The Hindu has also highlighted that Kalahandi is one among the Government of India's Transformation of Aspirational Districts Programme. The districts under this scheme are monitored on the progress across 49 key indicators in critical sectors such as health, education, agriculture and basic infrastructure.
Infamous for lending its name to the Kalahandi Syndrome (synonymous with backwardness, deprivation and starvation), the district is now charting a progression towards development with focused monitoring and fixed targets, providing an implementable template for similar regions across the country.