PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi has said that he would look into various issues, including in the fields of education, health and irrigation, to help ensure that development reaches what is arguably India’s poorest district, according to Balabhadra Majhi, the Lok Sabha MP from Nabarangpur.
Majhi said he handed over to the Prime Minister a two-page letter listing the needs of the country’s “least developed parliamentary constituency”, including the setting up of a medical college and an engineering college, during a 15-minute meeting on Tuesday. “The Prime Minister took note of all the concerns and said he would look into them,” the BJD MP said.
At the bottom of the development ladder on a number of indicators, primarily health and education, Nabarangpur in southern Odisha is the focus of a year-long assignment by The Indian Express to track poverty and transformation.
One of the key concerns expressed by Majhi in his letter was that the process of “devolution of funds” initiated by the Centre had affected many of its schemes that benefited some of the country’s poorest districts. The MP said he “requested” the PM to “review” and “restore” all such Centrally sponsored schemes. “Alternately, identify some 20-30 lowest developed districts in the country and evolve some schemes to bring such districts at par with the developed districts in the shortest possible time,” Majhi wrote in his letter. The other main demand was a relaxation of the norm that construction of roads under phase-II of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana can start only after phase-I is completed for districts, such as Nabarangpur, classified as Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) affected. “In Nabarangpur, there are some roads in the Maoist-hit areas bordering Chhattisgarh that come under phase-I. Given the security challenges, it will take years for these roads to be built, if at all. This means phase-II of the scheme for construction of more roads will never reach the district,” Majhi told The Indian Express. Apart from government-run engineering and medical colleges, the demands listed in Majhi’s letter include: setting up five government degree colleges, sanctioning a multi-purpose irrigation project over the Tel river in Chandahandi and providing infrastructure to aided schools. Majhi said he met the PM on a suggestion from NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya following a meeting, on May 3, between the two on a development roadmap for Nabarangpur.