Development of Kalahandi: Myth and Reality

By Umesh Chandra Sahoo

Post – Modernist state trends towards the socio-economic development within a tilting ideology of neo-liberals in India. While in context of Odisha, the state has provided massive populists policies to enhancing for the holistic development and also special limelight to backward districts including Kalahandi. But the government and governance has certainly failed to enhance the capacity. The article has alienated in to three periods where kalahandi has been visualized in a lance of multi – dimensional development approaches but the district still have been surviving for neo-identity beyond poverty and backwardness on the other state chapter of development has prima-facied with a larger extent.


The etymology meaning of Kalahandi assigns as Kala means ‘art’ and Handi as ‘store house’, completely store house of Art. The region had a splendid historical legacy with great civilization in ancient history of India. According to the Archaeological sources, stone age and Iron Age human settlement has been recovered from the region. Asurgarh in Narla block has offered an advanced, well civilised, cultured and urban human settlement about 2000 years ago in the region. For South Asia prospective, it is assumed that the parklands of Kalahandi district and Koraput district were dominated in the cultivation of paddy. The demography profile of the region displays as lower density of the population (199), advance sex ratio (1003) and the literacy rate of 59.22% in view of that 2011 census.
The contemporary kalahandi espouses the chapter of socio- economic development despite of the customary domain of poverty, malnutrition and most backwardness. Presently Kalahandi is a well established name not only in Odisha but across the nation as most backward pocket in the country. During 1965-66, 1974-75 and 1980s Kalahandi’s name acquired national newspaper for repeated drought situation that broke the economic backbone of the cultivators(The Marketing Strategy of Economic Development in Kalahandi, odisha review, September,2012). Kalahandi name stroke front page of the national newspaper for starvation death and acute poverty in 1980s. As a result the legitimized word Kalahandi Syndrome was delineates by many social scientists for its backwardness and starvation. Undivided Kalahandi dedicates as the second largest food surplus district in Odisha after independence of India. Dharamgarh sub-division was historically known for rice production in Odisha. During Bengal famine Kalahandi alone had sent 100,000 tons of rice.
Lots of writers, philosophers, social workers, journalists, politicians, etc. at the national level still continuing to exercise the name of Kalahandi through contributing in literature, drama, articles, sports , culture and as singer. For instance , Joga Bhysha bhoi as international mountaineer, folk singer and musician Sarbeswar Bhoi awardees of Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar by the Sangeet Natak Akademi for his contribution to Sambalpuri music are not in the lime light of National Journals. Why and how then? While the incidents of Dana Majhi who had been forced to walk carrying his wife death body from the District Headquarters Hospital of Kalahandi because of the medical officers denied him to provide the free ambulance service were highlighted from national to international media in 2017 .

The Dark Period (1980- 2000) outlines as the shadow of development zone of the for Kalahandi. The number of natural calamities and manmade disaster like drought , starvation and render of poverty had transpired. It was highly heighted in the media and viral in political stunt to identify the district as “Hub of backwardness and hunger death” across the globe. It has been always found for the crisis of our identity while the excellency part of kalahandi including the eco tourism spotsof Pulri Jharan Waterfall, Zakam, Raban Dora and Dukrichachra waterfalls and Karlapart Wildlife Century, long heritage culture of egalitarianism, several indigenous dance form including Ghumra, Bajasal, literature, artists, mines and minerals, flora and fauna have not been captured by media lance or the any politicians or journalists. Why and how it has then so happened? Whether only for the political manipulation of power or administrative inefficiency underscore the region in the domain of identity crisis vs. developmental discourse.

The district produces 40 per cent of total cotton production in the State and the crop grown here is in huge stipulate due to its high fibrous and organic qualities due to no chemical fertiliser or pesticide is used in the cultivation. Cotton is grown primarily in Bhawanipatna, Kesinga, Golamunda, Narla, Karlamund and Lanjigarh blocks of the district as an alternative cash crop due to presence of black soil that is suitable for its cultivation. Odisha Spinning Mills Federation Ltd.(SPINFED) seems to the zenith organization in the Co-Operative sector of the state to plan and implement cotton processing programmes by construction of the Konark Cotton Growers Coop. Spinning Mills, Kesinga, Kalahandi (Konark Spin) where ginning activities are being commenced.


Period of confrontation (2000-2010): This era surmises as confrontation for the stake holders, civil society’s activists and policymakers of Union and the state government. The KBK yojana, Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) schemes and the huge investment company like Vedanta Aluminum Company ltd. had to come in Lanjigarh for the economic development of the tribal and the region, better employment and optimal utilization of natural resources like Bauxite and manganese of the region. There would be international trade of trends by exporting of the Aluminum to abroad. Moreover, the holistic development of the tribals would have been improved by VAL. In the reflexive nature of development has started by the local politicians and tribals in the name of green Kalahandi and Niyamgiri movement The common vote by 12 gram sabhas in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, rejecting Vedanta Aluminium Ltd and the Odisha Mining Corporation’s plan to extract bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills, seemed as a momentous and noteworthy precedent that could resolve the course of similar developments in other tribal areas in India. The forest right act and PESA act have forced to VAL to ban the mining and exploring of Niyamgiri hill for the raw materials for the production of aluminum.
After implementation of Indravati Irrigation Project in 2000s, most part of Dharamgarh , Junagarh and M. Rampur subdivisions are witnessing rapid agricultural growth. The irrigation project has not only boosted rice production in the region but also encouraged highest number of rice mills in Kalahandi ( 70 app.) and dominated in Kesinga among the districts in Odisha. In order to accelerate the agro productions and export of rice with the perfect elasticity of demand of the population and productions, the state should adopt the alternative approaches for development as (a) Intensive Irrigation,(b) Diversification of Agriculture and (c) modern Technology and Research to boost yields but also the income of farmers but also increase the private investment in this sector like contractual and state based cooperative farming.
The Western Odisha Development Council (WODC) has come to exist through the Act,2000 as amended vide Orissa Act 8 and 14 of 2001 & 2003 respectively with the principal objectives of the accelerated the multi- heterogeneity genesis of development and advancement of the people residing within 10 districts and one sub-division of Angul district of Western Odisha. The Act empowers the Council for all round socio-economic upliftment, Educational & Cultural , irrigation, drinking water and infrastructure advancement of the people residing within WODC area including kalahandi.
A number of populist policies are provided including the rational and efficient PDS system by one rupee rice to the both APL and BPL family, mandi marketing procurement system for the farmer in paddy , big push investment in the road construction. Further Medical and Dental colleges , Agricutural college and Engineering college have setup.

Period of Capacity Edifice (2010- on wards): I used to enroll master degree in Delhi University, in my debutant class I had been subordinated and kalahandi became a laughing phenomenon for every one when I declared myself as “kalahandia”(domicile from Kalahandi), again I felt that my identity only limited with underdevelopment and poverty , then why?

Most of the populist policies and schemes have come to enhancing for social development of the people. A large number of rural infrastructure have constructed under the state government scheme including Biju KBK , Cement Concrete Road to village, Biju Jyoti Yojna despite of impede of the funding from union government in WODC, KBK and BGRF funds from2014s. While in the field of health the IMR and MMR have received better improvement due to Mamata Yojana (a conditional cash transfer maternity benefit scheme) and National Health Mission . More or less the infrastructure of health in hospital have drastically improved . Additionally , the special strategies for Acceleraed Reduction of IMR and MMR have initiated in most eleven districts of Western Odisha including Kalahandi. For this, perhaps the two rates have declined in kalahandi but these are still in vulnerability. On the other hand in the agricultural productivity, the paddy procurement has reached to more than 46 lakhs quintal and this year paddy has exported to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Moreover, Kalahandi district has ranked 1 in 108 districts most improved in agriculture categories by NITI Aayog on the foundation of incremental development from Mar 31-May 31, 2018.


In 2015-16, there was a target to cover 50,000 ha of land under cotton cultivation and the achievement was 46,152 ha. In 2016-17 kharif seasons, as against target of 55,000 ha, the achievement was 53,001 ha. However, in the absence of marketing facilities and support from Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), farmers fail to gain from the crop. Adequate number of Mandis are not opened for procurement as a result of which, farmers are forced to resort to distress sale and they blame the State Government for the situation.

Kalahandi will be hub of Holistic Development, if the government and political will convert some opportunities to reality including (1) Dharamgarh subdivision is emerging as major rice and pulses producer in the region. An agriculture park should be established in Dharamgarh sub-division. Soil of Kalahandi is good for pulses which can be explored in industrial scale. A pulse processing industry could be set up in the region, (2) Kalahandi, Balangir and Rayagada are top cotton producers in Odisha. As Kalahandi is located in the central place of above three districts, Corn is second largest produced crop in the world and has a great market.(3) Mahua, Jatropha and other oil rich seeds in Kalahandi can be used for bio-fuel or bio-diesel production. Such industry can be possible if farmers would go for cash oriented farming for bio-fuel.Textile Park: Kalahandi is one of the major producers of good quality cotton; a Textile park for cotton processing may be established in Kalahandi. Many of the agriculture products can be made sealed and/or can package during cold storage and could been sent for export or national market to give local farmer maximum benefits in the national market. This will generate an export oriented market for local farmers like happening in Punjab such as processing and packaging should be done by establishing local enterprises for national and international market. These package products might include Can Corn, Rice Noodles, Basmati Rice, Sunflower Oil, Mustard Paste, Turmeric Powder, Chili Powder, Garlic packet, Tomato Puree, Tomato Catchup, Frozen products such as cabbage, green peas, Rice and pulse pack. For the efficient water management and irrigation there should be the Lower Udanti Barrage Project (near Sinapali), Barrage in Udanti near Kegaon, Upper Sandul Irrigation Project near Sirpur, Lower Sandul Irrigation Project near Duta, Upper Tel Barrage near Chandahandi, Lower Tel Barrage near Kesinga, Upper Jonk Irrigation Project, Sundar Irrigation Project, Saipala Irrigation Project, Kharkhara Irrigation Proejct, Biswanathpur irrigation Project, Sahajat Irrigation Project etc. Kalahandi region has the high potential for generating electricity through hydroelectricity project and it needs construction of new dam.
In the economic domain of development , the district growth rate , per capita income of the people and agricultural output drastically increased in last 10 years, on the other hand the social development including health care status, elimination of the multidimensional poverty rate , accessibility of the basic amenities of the life have not achieved the equal linearity with the earlier development or these need to more which not only persuade on the infrastructure development but also in the governance and effeteness’ rationalized implementation of policies. The district has witnessed of higher growth of private infrastructure building compare to public infrastructure due to certain inefficient of the policies management, quality enhancing and corruptions in blocks level.

The theory of populism and populist policies by Ernesto Laclau and the capability approach by Amartya sen , it can be narrated that the state government has created opportunity among the people by providing the opportunities in term of populists schemes but some extent capabilities appear to lesser than opportunities. And the new profile of Kalahandi has no more in the crisis of identity and in domain of poverty, malnutrition and backwardness but the national and international journals and media should recognize the neo-identity of our agricultural output, literature, heterogeneity culture of egalitarian society and our potentiality of eco tourism. If these are not, who and how do flight the myth and endure of the reality.


Umesh Chandra sahoo
Phd scholar, cps/sss, JNU
Email- [email protected]

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