State must lock on to inclusivity

Odisha must draw lessons from its glorious past to remove the tag, “poor state”, and move forward to compete with developing states. Socio-economic progress of the state hinges on the prosperity of its residents, which is primarily dependent on financial stability and economic freedom.
A state home to over 45 million people can collectively work with the government and policymakers to change its own fortunes. The State Economic Survey report says the growth rate of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) outperformed nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017-18. That is testament of the state’s ability to not only challenge status-quo but to also bring about a turnaround.
The mineral resources rich state has been greatly dependent on income from these to meet its expenses. The state intends to increase contributions from key sectors such as services to its GSDP, which is a good sign. A well-developed services sector would boost employment prospects mostly for skilled and semi-skilled workforce. To win investor’s confidence, places such as Bhubaneswar need to compete hard with IT capital Bangalore, Hyderabad and financial capital Mumbai.
Simultaneously, core sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture must not be forgotten. Odisha must change its export strategy both domestic and international. Rather, focus should shift to export of value added products; be it agricultural or mineral.
Odisha’s export performance lags much behind other coastal states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Telangana. Odisha’s existing export policy needs inclusive and cohesive approach, which appears to be taken care of in the new draft export policy.
Tourism is a sector where the state government has demonstrated clear intent to succeed with affirmative action. But, Odisha must take note of the competition to attract national and international tourists to many exciting and lovely destinations in the state. Besides religious tourism, the state must create and exploit medical and ecotourism potential.
Holistic and integrated development is the need of the hour to reduce poverty and establish uniformity in the state. Theoretically, infrastructure and other facilities between cities and villages may be equated. But is reality there is a wide gap between cities and villages. Concerted efforts are required to narrow the gap by improving standards of: schools, healthcare, energy access, road connectivity and employment in villages and towns.
The density of OPWD or district roads in Odisha is very low compared with developed states. People living in such reaches of Odisha deserve better.
Healthcare facilities in Bhubaneswar are much better today than what were available two decades ago. But the same doesn’t exist in villages. The state government must be congratulated for their healthcare schemes. But a lot needs to be done for providing timely, affordable and effective healthcare access, especially to children and pregnant women in villages far from towns and cities.
On energy access, centrally designed schemes such as PAHAL (DBTL) and Saubhagya have certainly improved access to LPG and electricity in Odisha. Recently, a round of bidding for City Gas Distribution (CGD) has ensured that people and industries in Bargarh, Debagarh, Sambalpur, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur and Keonjhar are going to get natural gas.
Odisha aspires to be a smart state, which is only possible when all its cities, towns and villages become smart.
The writer is Associate Professor and Head, Department of Management Studies, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology.

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