Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: Rayagada district has 881 inaccessible villages out of 2445 inhabited villages in toto. This inaccessibility has been decided on the basis of few indicators like lack of approach road, electricity, etc. As per the information of Press Information Bureau released at the fag end of July, 2016, Odisha tops the list of un-electrified villages numbering 3474 and Rayagada tops the list in Odisha having 403 villages. The reasons cited for the non-electrification are attributed to forest issues and Left Wing Extremism(LWE). There are other challenges in these God-forbidden villages.
But young bureaucrats like Sri Amrit Ruturaj, IAS, Sub-Collector, Gunupur has accepted the challenges of infrastructure deficit in these inaccessible villages and started pro-acting on the vital issues like safe drinking water, electricity, approach road, basic health facilities, social security schemes, etc. As a part of rapid and participatory rural appraisal, Ruturaj took up transect walk in most interior villages like Kurli inhabited by Dangaria Kandhas in Niyamagiri hills. Transect walk is the best method for rapid & participatory rural appraisal by systematically walking with villagers as informants by observing, asking, listening, discussing, identifying different zones, local technologies, introduced technologies, seeking problems, solutions and opportunities, mapping and diagramming resources and findings. He has also replicated the same processes in other interior villages of yet another PVTG Lanjia Saura residing in Putasing. Several other inaccessible villages of Chandrapur have been traversed by this officer, who is a Ravenshawvian & a product of prestigious JNU. So, inaccessibility has not deterred the will power of Ruturaj. In fact, this is a phase of his learning through doing.
The challenges now lie with the other aspects of this appraisal process. Rayagada’s two PVTGs namely Lanjia Souras and Dangaria Kandhas inhabit mainly in Gunupur subdivision. A SWOT analysis in the present context of mining, resistance, NTFP, LWEs, art & craft, etc is need of the hour .In fact, this is reflected through his intense visits to this part of the hinterland.
Apart from keeping law and order as a sub-divisional magistrate in Gunupur Sub-division, Ruturaj has gone much beyond such transect walks and has planned to combat the infrastructure deficit especially in the tribal villages. To be more specific, when the tribal villagers of Kandabaridi village in Ramanaguda block warned to boycott the next election if basic facilities like pre-primary education or Anganwadi Centre, regular functioning of the primary school, safe drinking water, approach road, etc are not met. Responding to these demands of the villagers he walked seven kilometers in the undulated forest terrain and was welcomed by the villagers. The result: tube well got functional within eighteen hours oozing out safe drinking water. Commitment from Executive Engineer, SOUTHCO to provide free electricity within one month. Necessary instructions to RWSS and veterinary authorities to do the needful. Though immediate construction of the approach road is a daunted task, the process has been initiated.
Under his leadership two mega camps for Persons with Disabilities(PwD) one each at Gunupur and Muniguda have been conducted so that it has brought laurels for Rayagada. The district has stood first in rehabilitating PwDs for which it has been awarded by the Chief Minister. He was instrumental in seizing several vehicles engaged in unauthorized lifting of minor minerals and distributing hundreds of record of rights to the poor. As an able administrator and with previous experience, even if for a short stint, as Asstt Secretary in Ministry of Culture in GOI, he has been able to diplomatically manage the resistance of local tribal people in conducting three day Chaiti at Sub-divisional level. Amidst all kinds of farmers’ unrest in Odisha, he has put a smooth paddy procurement system in all the blocks of Gunupur sub-division. Thus Ruturaj, till now, has been able to turn every challenge into an opportunity and lived upto the expectations of the denizens of Gunupur, Rayagada.