The Union minister was scheduled to assess the progress of the development schemes and programmes jointly executed under the Aspirational District or Akanskhi mission by the Union government and the state government.
The Union minister Mr Balyan expressed his shock and anguish over the Collector’s absence. The local MLA, Raghuram Padal of the ruling Biju Janata Dal, also remained absent.
The Koraput district administration defended the action saying that the Collector was not in the town as he travelled to Cuttack from April 10 to 12, 2022 after being summoned by the High Court of Orissa for a personal appearance in a case - WP (C) 25197 of 2019. Apart from this one-liner, no more information was shared by the district administration.
The first phase of Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) was launched by the Union Government in January 2018 for 112 backward districts in the country. Later in the phase five more districts were added to the list.
The ADP aims to quickly and effectively transform the under-developed districts across the country. The broad contours of the programme are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts through monthly delta ranking; all driven by a mass movement.
With states as the main drivers, this programme focuses on the strength of each district, identifying low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement and measuring progress by ranking districts on a monthly basis. The ranking is based on the incremental progress made across 49 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) under 5 broad socio-economic themes - health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion and skill development and Infrastructure. The delta-ranking of Aspirational Districts and the performance of all districts is available on the Champions of Change Dashboard.
As per the ADP mandate, District Collector is the nodal officer for execution of development programme. His presence was quite important.
Union minister Dr Balyan’s office must have scheduled the meeting after due consultation with the Koraput district administration.
According to legal experts, the Collector could have prayed the court for rescheduling a personal appearance date.
Koraput district administration clarified that the Project Director of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) who is also an Indian Administrative Officer represented the Collector in the meeting and apprised the Union minister about the progress of various schemes and programmes.
The minister was not at all happy with this clarification that appeared too weak to stand scrutiny to even an ordinary man’s sense of perceivability.
“I was here to review the developmental works in the district. Though I had a meeting, it would have been better had the Collector and MLA been present there,” the minister said.
“I had great expectations from the local representative but he did not turn up to the meeting. We may belong to different political parties but our aim should be the same, to serve the people of Odisha and Koraput in particular,” Dr Balyan added.
According to NITI Aayog Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report, Koraput has over 51 per cent poverty rate. The people of the district have been fighting for years for socio-economic development. The district desperately cries for improved healthcare facilities, quality education, good communication infrastructure and other required conditions that will lift it from its present sorry state of affairs.
In Odisha rural and urban polls are over. Next elections for Lok Sabha and Odisha Legislative Assembly are due in 2014. In fact, it’s a long way to go. Politics can wait. The pace of progress must not stop. Let’s hope such incidents never occur in future and jeopardize the development process.