Koshal state is inevitable because of variety of reasons but primarily because it is in accord with emerging trends. It is beginning to be evident bigger states do not necessarily better management of resources, especially human resource. Fears that Koshal and Orissa will be further disadvantaged once separated simply do not hold water. Both MP and Chhattisgarh are better off after separation. Bihar is on mend under Nitish Kumar after separating from Jharkhand; it is concentrating on overall development of the state, particularly on human resource now that it cannot depend on easy money obtained from mining operations in Jharkhand. Even Uttaranchal is beginning to show progress concentrating on its own resources which remained untapped when it remained with UP. Sure they are going through teething problems, but on the whole all these new entities are on the mend.
In the case of Orissa and Koshal, several studies done since its inception suggest that inter regional variance is increasing, and the gaps are getting bigger with no sign of abetting. There is no sense of urgency or inclination to reverse this trend.More recently, the state sponsored a study to examine this self evident problem; It took four and half year and cost thirty five lakhs; and was produced two years ago. Mr.A.U.Singhdeo, the minister in charge said in Orissa assembly that the government is still studying it !! In the mean time, there has been utter failure of governance. Much of Koshal area is coming under the sway of Naxalites. Koshal is emerging as the most polluted part of Orissa. KBK area is languishing for decades even after alarm bell had been sounded decades ago.
Orissa government has no mining policy yet mining is going on in full spate for much of the last century. Even if humongous amount of mineral resources is known to be stolen away, and is being stolen away, Orissa government steadfastly opposing any CBI enquiry even though its own government apparatus is incapable in stopping the loot. The irony is that proceeds from these operations did not improve the lots of Orissa and it is locked in the bottom of literacy and wealth ladder.We have been in the resource trap all these decades, and unfortunately lives of people who are affected by these mining operations is degrading in all measures. Not that all areas of Orissa are languishing. It is as if the sixty mile zone surrounding Bhubaneswar is where all the proceeds of Orissa is being dumped with Koshal and South Orissa remaining in the rain shadow area. Worst part of it all is that a nexus has developed in that sixty mile zone which thinks that that area alone needs to be developed. Ironically, that nexus consisting primarily of senior bureaucrats (working and retired) and academics of coastal area, is unofficially determining the shape of destiny of Orissa, and is immune from political engagement.
Orissa government has lost touch with people beyond this sixty mile zone. Our Adivashi population, who constitute nearly a fourth of population, have been singularly impacted from such deliberate neglect. More recently, the government has turned hostile towards this population. Unfortunately, both Koshal and South Orissa contain the bulk of this population. Protests from this group have not been heard, they have been replied with lathi charge, and even gun shots. And thus it is creating a fertile ground for Naxalites. We are watching in living colour the upheavals in Arab countries graphically demonstrating what happens when the governments are disconnected with people. We too in Orissa witnessing something similar albeit in a minor scale.
But Koshal should not be a separate state because of a protest movement. The daunting task of Koshal state will be how to prepare the state for twenty first century, and align itself to overall growth and main stream of India. Key to this is single minded focus on human resource development and creates an ambiance of trust between people and the government. We have to learn from the blunders of Orissa, which made it dysfunctional. All state resources must be equitably distributed across the regions. Overcentrilisation of state institutions and deployment of resources in a small part have been the main fault lines of Orissa; these must be avoided. Policies and procedures must be established to institute decentrilisation based upon proximity, accessibility and pragmatics. We simply cannot afford to marginalize a huge chunk of population and expect progress. The Adivashi population is integral part of the state, and is a source of our strength. All social scientists will tell you that geniuses are produced in all clusters of population; therefore as it stands, by ignoring this population we are depriving ourselves major source potential enhancers of the society. We must also develop better methods of conflict resolutions. In Orissa, we are locked into unnecessary battles between mining industries and Adivashis, farmers and industries, mineral exploitation and environmental concerns, etc.. We all have a stake in the upliftment of the state. Many of these conflicts are soluble, but we do not have in Orissa proper mechanisms to defuse these issues. Koshal can be a model state if we play our cards right from the beginning. All these can be achieved without violence. And I believe Orissa will too will be better off without Koshal.
The author is a retired Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry of Queen’s University and retired Chief Psychologist of a University based children’s centre.