"There is so much poverty in Odisha that if you search for the poorest districts in the country, you will find them in this state," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in one of his speeches in the just-concluded Uttar Pradesh elections.

The statement sparked protest from the ruling Biju Janata Dal, which has been in power for the last 17 years. There is widespread belief that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik may marginally manage to get a fifth term due to the absence of any credible alternative face in opposition camp. However, if one examines the development indicators and current financial situation in the state, the Prime Minister is right in what he has said.

By any calculation, Odisha shows no good sign of development. As per the recent Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), it is not Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, but the new narrative of poverty-hit states like Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Interestingly, both the states figure top in the country, with a whopping 81.2 per cent (Odisha) and 81.9 per cent (Chhattisgarh) people respectively living with highest deprivation and acute poverty.

Even after a stable government with one Chief Minister in power for the last 17 years, Odisha is one of the poorest states in the country with over 32.59 per cent of its population living below the poverty line (BPL).

Financially the state is in such a bad shape that the government is unable to create jobs for 10 lakh (1 million) youths registered in the employment exchanges. More concern has come from the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG), cautioning the state government that its public debt receipts saw a 237 per cent spurt from Rs 2,268 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 7,646 crore in 2014-15.

Forget about the promise the government made to create 20 lakh (2 million) employment opportunities. The situation is so bad that a staggering 1.38 lakh posts are lying vacant in various government departments. Moreover, the state has abolished 44,197 vacant posts citing austerity measures as revealed from the latest annual establishment review. Unfortunately, the highest vacancy of 38,717 posts is in the School and Mass Education Department while the Health Department has 12,167 vacancies.

The state has spent a whopping Rs 14,382 crore under Sarav Sikhya Abhiyan(SSA) since 2001 but only 25 per cent of primary schools have access to electricity. Eight-seven per cent of primary and upper primary schools lack a teacher for every class, while 80 per cent of schools do not have adequate classrooms. Besides, 39,635 schools lack playgrounds, 17,763 do not have boundaries and 376 schools do not have their own building.

A few recent examples on the public health front: close to 100 children died of Japanese Encephalitis in tribal-dominated Malkangiri district in a span of about two months; at least 19 infants died of malnutrition at Nagada village in mineral-rich Jajpur district in a month; at 32 per cent, Odisha topped the list of malaria deaths in the country.

Take the case of Dana Majhi -- the tribal who had to walk for miles carrying his wife's dead body on his shoulder, accompanied by his weeping daughter because no ambulance was available. It made global headlines for all the wrong reasons.

All this says volumes about the state of health in Odisha. The situation is becoming more complicated with around 1,600 posts -- one-third of the sanctioned strength of 4,800 doctors -- lying vacant in the state.

Naveen Patnaik may win a fifth term in 2019 but Odisha will lose another five years to catch up on development with other progressive states in the country.

Thus, there is eager anticipation about what Prime Minister Modi has to say on the state of affairs in Odisha when the Bharatiya Janata Party's national executive meets here on April 15 and 16.

(The author is an expert on policy and development and has extensively written on Odisha's development and poverty issues. He can be contacted at sachisatpathy@yahoo.com)

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