Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: Good news. Rayagada is the lone district in Odisha being in green zone. Swab of 1584 persons were sent to RMRC, Bhubaneswar for testing and all are declared as negative by CDMO Sri Artabandhu Nayak. Last on 25th May, 275 samples were sent in 17th phase and all were declared negative on last Friday. For Rayagada in green zone, the credit goes to the law abiding people of Rayagada, PRI members and the proactive administration. “The state total for testing is 143570, the average comes to 4786 per district. In this context, Rayagada has achieved only 33% of the average per district. This is abysmally low. If per phase sample collection is taken into account, the average per phase comes to 93 only. One can not rule out the Corona virus potentiality of the the district, which is bordering some red zone districts of AP”, said Sri Ricky Rahmat Gautam from Rayagada, Asstt Professor in a management college in Bhubaneswarand pursuing doctorate in Vani Vihar.
Exodus of labourers via shramik special trains and other means of transport & walking is still on in Rayagada. According to an official press release by DIPRO, till writing of this report, 1354 numbers of migrants have arrived by eight shramik special trains since 14th May. Out of these 430 migrants belong to Rayagada. Till last Monday, 9276 migrants were sent to different places out of which 6495 migrants were sent to different districts of Odisha by 128 buses. Maximum migrants from Bolangir district numbering 5451 were sent by 104 buses. So, according to official sources, 3211 migrants are of Rayagada district including 430 by train , which is very low compared to the potential of reverse migration expected. Though there is a crude estimate that 25-30000 labourers are returning to Rayagada through various means, the district administration is not sure of the number of migrants, who have actually returned since the 1st lock down. Rayagada police with direction from SP Dr.Sarvana Vivek M, IPS also has picked up 1904 numbers of out of state migrants and transported them to their respective states.
There is also misreporting and statistical jugglery at Govt level. According to a press release from DIPRO on 25th May, the total number of migrants detrained at Rayagada was 1100. The press release on 27th says that 85 migrants are detrained and the total number is 1354. There is a difference of 169 migrants. This reflects the lackadaisical attitude of the district administration.
Coming to livelihood scenario, during a district level coordination meeting on last Tuesday where Collector Sri Pramod Kumar Behera presided in the presence of PD-DRDA Sri Amrit Ruturaj, IAS, Sub-Collector and few selected NGOs, a planning exercise was done on methodologies to accelerate employment generation under MNREGA through departments like agriculture, horticulture, fishery, watershed, forest & ITDA. Emphasis was laid to implement schemes like plantation, pond excavation, etc. The persondays will be increased to 80000 from the existing 47000 in the context of reverse migration to Rayagada. “Unfortunately rampant use of machines are seen in many parts of Rayagada. It is certainly a point of concern if machines replace the wage earners. A few govt functionaries are saying that the local labourers are not agreeing to join; but this can not be a plea to violate a constitutional act”, said Sri Bijaya Mishra, a farmer entrepreneur of the district.
“Though the district has planned to involve several community resource persons like krishi mitras, prani mitras, master book keepers, workers of NGOs/CSOs in chalking out innovative programmes especially cashew, mango, litchi, custard apple, etc plantation through horticultural deptt and land development, ragi cultivation under millet mission, farm pond excavation under agricultural department, this exercise seems to be mechanical and will tun out to be futile in the absence of a skill mapping of the returnee migrants and clarity in the roles to be played by the CSOs/NGOs”, said Sri Balamukundo Palo, Secretary of Naveen Vikas Charitable Trust from Bissam Cuttack, who attended the said coordination meeting.