Swabhiman Anchal has always been in my heart. I will continue my efforts to make it a leading region in the State: Naveen Patnaik
Malkangiri: Development and prosperity in the 21st century is possible only when the people are digitally empowered and have access to latest communication technologies. Keeping this in mind, the Government of Odisha has been striving hard to bridge the digital divide in far flung cutoff areas of Malkangiri district. While the infrastructural anomalies diminishing slowly, it’s now time for the people to join the mainstreaming with state of the art technology. As part of the efforts, today Swabhiman area is connected with the outside world with 4G telecommunication network thanks to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s unwavering commitment to the development of the area.
The story of development in the Swabhiman area has many dimensions. Few years ago, more than 30,000 tribals in 151 villages of Chitrakonda block of Malkangiri district were living in darkness or Bichhinnanchal, cut-off from mainland for nearly five decades. The area soon came to be known as Swabhiman Anchal after the inauguration of the much-awaited Gurupriya setu (river over bridge) by Naveen Patnaik on July 26 2019. It raised hopes of inhabitants of the Chitrakonda block to reap the fruits of developments. It is not an exaggeration to say that the opening of Gurupriya Bridge is a milestone in terms of peace and development. It linked the mainland to 151 isolated villages of Balimela reservoir in the Maoist-infested Malkangiri district.
At the time of inauguration of the bridge, the Chief Minister had announced an Rs.100-crore package for development of the remote cut-off areas in the district. Through the package, the cut-off areas would become regions of pride. The special package included a fishery project in the reservoir, construction of two roads in the erstwhile cut-off areas, electrification, drinking water supply, provision of healthcare and a new bridge at Manyamkonda.
After the construction of the Gurupriya bridge, Sakrubandha and Jantapai hanging bridges were constructed in order to facilitate movement to the Swabhiman Anchal. Along with this, many villages were also connected by all-weather roads.
While development eluded from the ‘cut-off’ villages more than five decades, it was an uphill task for the villagers to reach Malkangiri town that caters to the health, educational and administrative needs of the people. Reaching the main town involved walking, bus journeys, boat rides, and more walking through forests, rivers, and rocky roads. In some cases these arduous journeys spanned over more than 50 hours.
Because of its extreme remoteness and only land link with Visakhapatnam district in adjoining Andhra Pradesh, the cut-off region became a safe haven for Maoists. In course of time, the Maoist menace went increasing.
Finally, the Naveen government brought happiness among the people by opening the 910-metre bridge, which is now symbol of nation’s pride and people’s trust on government.
One year after the inauguration of the bridge, there has been an all-round transformation in region by facilitating fast-paced development through improved connectivity, health, education, electrification and access to public services.
The economic activities gained pace creating better livelihood opportunities for the people. Earlier, the people used to barter goods produced or gathered by them for things they did not have. They would, for example, barter bamboo and tamarind for millet and ragi grown on family farms by others. The scenario has been changed now. The local farmers got new avenues for selling their produce.
The State government has taken a several measures to promote fish cultivation and started turmeric cultivation projects for the betterment of local people. Moreover, there is a proposal to construct a hospital at Paparmetel and a ‘Maa Gruha’ was inaugurated at Hataguda of Badapada, after Gurupriya bridge connected the area with mainland.
It is heartening to note the fact that the area is now attracting many tourists from various places including Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Thousands of tourists are coming to this area every day away from the din and bustle of the city life, for picnic and merrymaking. As a result, nearby areas of Gurupriya bridge like Badapadar, Panasagandhi and Sanyasiguda have turned into picnic spots. Furthermore, a provision of boating has been developed at small islands in the river around Gurupriya.
Recently, the cutoff area saw the setting up off a COB (Company Operating Base) at Gurasetu by the Odisha Police and BSF. Senior officials of the Government had whirlwind tours to the area for developmental activities. The law and order situation is now under control in the area with the opening Gurupriya setu.
With the launch of free smart phone distribution programme, the pace of socio-economy development will be further accelerated in the Swabhiman area, enabling people to realize the fruits of digital revolution. It will help the residents to stay connected with their friends, families and relatives living at distant places. It will also immensely benefit the children in online learning. The people in region will take the benefits of telemedicine services at this pandemic situation.
While launching the free smartphones distribution programme in the Swabhiman area on Tuesday, Naveen has reiterated his commitment for the overall development of region.
He said, “The Swabhiman Anchal has always been in my heart. I will continue my efforts to make it a leading region in the State”.
The Chief Minister announced to provide smartphones free of cost to all households in Swabhiman Anchal of Malkangiri district.
He said that three more 4G mobile towers will be installed taking the total to seven in the areas to take benefits of digital revolution to last mile and expedite social security schemes.
While interacting with the people of Swabhiman Anchal, the Chief Minister reminded them of the area that he visited Swabhiman Anchal in July 2018 and at that time inaugurated the Gurupriya Bridge. At the time, he had announced a special package of Rs. 100 crore. Later, it was increased to Rs. 215 crore for rapid development in region with special focus on education, livelihood health, communication, drinking water, irrigation, housing, banking, and exposure visits for Mission Shakti mothers, Naveen said.
All these efforts of the government are going to bring the benefits of development to the people of Swabhiman area and they are destined to be a part of the development agenda that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been pursuing.