Orissa’s Journey From A Land Of Naxals And Poverty To A Well-Developing State

Orissa – the land of Lord Jagannath. There is a saying that the sea tried to demolish the Jagannath temple five times and it was reconstructed every time with the same spirit and enthusiasm and I think that this same positive spirit is present within the people who inhavit this land.

Orissa, a state with extreme poverty fighting with the problems of Naxalism has shown quite positive progress during these 5 yrs. Its journey of progress is very interesting depending upon series of events from history to the present.

Let us try to understand the course of action that led to the start of Orissa’s journey but for that, we need to dig some events in history.

Story of Kalahandi district

Situated at a distance of 9 hours from the city Bhubaneswar is a district called Kalahandi.

Ruled by the Naga dynasty, there was a time Kalahandi was famous for its poverty. There were many cases known where were people were forced to even sell their children due to their poor economic conditions. 

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Many politicians visited Kalahandi with the promises of development and increasing the basic standard of living but no solution came out of these visits.

But over the period, the remote areas of Orissa have been seen doing progress. Mr. Naveen Patnaik said that Kalahandi will no longer be known for poverty rather known as a rice bowl where rice production will boost up.


How did this economic transformation happen?

Since Orissa is close to the Bay of Bengal, the export of food and textile from here in the past is evident. In 1963, the East India company established factories at Balasore Orissa.

3 significant incidents in the history

In the 18th and 19th centuries, 3 incidents took place which affected Orissa’s trade development.

  • A war between Maratha, the British, and the Mughals over who is going to have control over the state. No one was bothered about the progress or welfare of the people of Orissa. Huge losses during the war can be a reason for the state’s poverty.
  • There were more exports factories in West Bengal than in Orissa.
  • Orissa was never a part of a single territory. Some part of it belonged to the Madras province whereas some belonged to west Bengal. The developing process in Orissa was never considered to be an important subject.

Problem of Naxalism

Studies have shown major policies of the government have failed the issue of tribes in Orissa. Social injustice, extreme poverty, and unheard appeals are some of the reasons why the Naxal movements have been so active in some parts of Orissa like Deogarh, Sambalpur, etc. The tribes were denied to keep their traditional culture and less autonomy was given to them.

Socio-economic reasons added to this problem. attracting the younger generation to join these groups. There were many attacks and counter-attacks between these groups and forces. There have been reasons for the rise of Naxalism –

  • Mismanagement of forest resources

The British government had always maintained a monopolization of forest resources thereby depriving the locals and tribal people of their rights over the forest resources. And the same continued even after independence with not many differences in the forest laws.

  • Inefficient implementation of tribal policies

There have been many policies related to the tribes even in the constitution also but the problem with bureaucracy and at the functional level never led to the effective implementation of these policies and hence these tribes and local people were exploited at every level.

  • Absence of developmental projects

There are very few developmental projects in these tribal areas which makes them even more vulnerable.

  • Land reforms and the zamindari system

There were never proper laws related to lands and major rights were enjoyed by the zamindars. These people charge a heavy amount from poor people and trap them.

  • Geographic features

The geographical features of these Naxal areas give an advantage to Naxal groups to hide and fight with forces efficiently like the gorilla war concept.

  • Unfulfilled promises by the government leaders.

On the whole, we can conclude that Naxalism has born out of exploitation but now has transformed into a major threat to the nation’s security.

Apart from historic reasons, extreme weather in Orissa where cyclones and droughts are common also are the reason for its poverty. Like the Gulab, and many more cyclones, they not only destroy the infrastructure but also affect the livelihood of the common people.

Orissa’s progressive’s aspects

Over some time, one thing that cannot be denied is the progress that Orissa had made during Naveen Patnaik’s government. From sponsoring the Indian hockey team to its prompt preparedness of the SDRF team, the course of action is commendable. Huge infrastructural investment, women entrepreneurs skill development programs, Orissa food security scheme, utthan scheme in the education field, etc. have given a developmental pace to Orissa’s government efforts. Even the UN has also appreciated Orissa on several occasions.

But one thing in the whole scenario cannot be ignored, that is, the situation throughout the state is not the same. Orissa can be divided into 3 parts – coastal regions, central region, and upper region. Coastal regions are more developed due to favorable trade advantages, whereas the inner portion of Orissa is still struggling with extremely poor infrastructure; medical or even basic necessities are absent. And not to forget the Naxalism.

Many believe that rather than being a democratic government it’s more like Naveen Patnaik’s Sarkar. Less participation from the people of Orissa makes the entire framework less democratic. There have always been less criticism and non-participation of general people in policymaking as compared to the neighboring states like West Bengal where active criticism is much stronger.


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After having an overall view of Orissa’s journey from pre-independence to post-independence, one fact cannot be denied at any cost, which is, Naveen Patnaik, who was once known for his lavish, glamorous, elite lifestyle and absenteeism in policymaking, has now transformed into a simple man who is dedicated to shaping Orissa’s developmental process positively through his constant efforts and policies.


Edited by Anupama Roy


completed graduation from the University of Delhi. Pursuing m.com from the university of lucknow. Loves writing and is a strong believer in natural beauty. To be beautiful means to be yourself.. and I believe it.

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