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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 18 New Delhi, April 18, 2020

Managing the Lock down with a human face: the case study of Odisha

Saturday 18 April 2020

by Prof Radhakanta Barik

As per latest information regarding cases under Covid19 are 41 cases including one recovered and one death. These cases are confined to the cities of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. This brings the extension of Lockdown till 30th April which is not an accepted proposition as the number of cases are small in comparison to many other States such as Maharasthra and Kerala. We could have gone to bring only capital town under the Lockdown as most of the cases are there. As Odisha has 75 percentages of poor labouring class live here who need work and income without that more people will die of hunger than coronavirus. It is now a declared policy of the chief minister, then he is morally responsible to people to give some social security package besides the KALIA meant for the peasantry of Odisha.

The chief minister of Odisha has taken a bold step in establishing a hospital with beds of 500 people for the patients infected by Coronavirus in the capital town and there are seven testing centres in some leading towns. This is a step in right direction and but the real issue is how to invest in public health system which requires a large investment and improving the quality of health services for an average citizen. Today there is a campaign against the Public Health centres in the name of quality services provided by the private hospitals but it needs to change as the perception of people regarding the public hospitals. This requires the government to invest in campaign against the Private hospitals.

Odisha government for the last one year has invested in public health system after ignoring for a period of five years. Health and Family Welfare (15%) saw the highest increase in allocations. But lower than 27 States of India. The health system has improved a lot in district hospitals and city hospitals and in medical colleges. This year the health budget has increased to improve further the health system in Odisha. But it requires to improve PHCs which benefits 90 percentages of people of Odisha. This needs better infrastructure and better diagnostic system and trained and motivated doctors. The government is necessarily following the Soft State of Gunnar Myrdal for pampering doctors who are creating problems for improving health services in both city hospitals and PHCs. No doctor stays in quarter attached to the PHC at the taluk level. In the middle of night one visits the Hospital no doctor is there to treat you. Most of doctors are doing private practice. It is reported that doctors in Medical colleges are not attending their duties but doing private practice. Naveen Patnaik needs to show his teeth at these people otherwise Odisha is going to suffer from Coronavirus as it has a large migrant population. Public administration teaches us that the team spirit in Hospital is very much important from doctor, nurse, compounder and sweeper. As the chief minister talks of his four mantras for improving administration. But the problem comes up when the organisation is a doctor centric and once the doctor is absent then problem of comes up. In most of the PHCs in Odisha doctors are absent only the paramedical forces are present. These people need to get special training by which they can handle medical problems. This will be better team spirit and than the doctor as doctors in Odisha are highly status conscious and corrupt as they do private practice which harms the team spirit in functioning in the health department.

Rural Odisha is going to disintegrate under the pressures from the proportion of labour of cultivators which is around 75 percentages of people depend on selling their labour in the market. As agricultural market is shrinking with the advance technology specifically threshers which has displaced a large percentage of labour. Furthermore migrant labour have reached Odisha they will start doing work on land. Can it sustain it? This will increase its poverty level and hunger as both are linked in the process. The best way government of Odisha needs to start NREGA work in a big way which can help labour to get work and keep the wage reasonable level. Despite the central government has fixed the wage at Rs 210, the state government can supplement some for starting the work which can be planned with help of the civil engineering and irrigation department. Work related to minor irrigation and afforestation can start soon. We have a motivated civil administration who take the challenge of initiating the planning and implementing the works..

Livestock economy and vegetable production are the two legged economy of rural Odisha. I went to a plot of land where ghobi was being produced in the river bed in every winter. They had income which sustains their children’s education and one of them studying in the college and staying in the hostel. Today no market no selling of ghobi and he throws these ghobi on the road whoever wants can take it. it is a big loss for them.

Women in rural Odisha work as milk producers by keeping cows. They maintain in their houses and sell milk and milk buyers make cheese and sell in the sweet stalls but sweet stalls are closed and their cows are very expensive to keep at home and she suffers from a heavy losses.The Odisha government should have allowed the local market to remain open and sweet stalls open which can help the economy to run as Bengal has done in Lockdown period. The government may give some compensation for these small producers who are the backbone of our economy.

As the leading economists including the Nobel Laureates like Amartya Sen and Abhijit Banerjee told that it is money needs to invested in people and people cannot go hungry and without work. Odisha government must strengthen the KALIA project without discriminating the labour and farmers who need money from the state.Under the KALIA people have been benefited after releasing two installments by the government of Odisha The government needs to invest more than today without bothering the central government. The same way the government needs to increase the wage under the NREGA as much as the present market price that is 300 to 350 rather than 210. Naveen Patnaik is very sensitive to the needs of people may go ahead to strengthen the KALIA project and increase the wage under NREGA by which people do not lose work and employment and income. This is the time when government of Odisha needs to protect its vulnerable sections of a society. The labouring class need to be defended with a social package as the central government has given money under the Disaster Management authority. This needs to be distributed as they have ho income they need to get some income for coming two months.

With this the biggest number are working as self-employed people whose number is about 8 lakhs of autowalas who do not have any work as they do not drive the autos under the Lock Down. This is the time they need to be paid back with a subsistence allowance. Then come farmers and labour working in rural Odisha who have no work under the Lockdown they need to get an additional KALIA money which may help them to live from hand to mouth. Without having income but they have an additional expenditure in rural Odisha as they now depend on gas cylinder for which they pay money which was not there some years back. The state can supplement the gas cylinder otherwise they will depend on forest which is dwindling at a faster pace.

Without such investment by the state government, rural Odisha is going to disintegrate under the pressures from the labour who have come back. As agriculture is a mono culture in Odisha and depends on Government of Odisha from subsidized price of inputs to procurement price for their outputs. As we cultivate and we abandoned cultivation for a decade because of the market price was not supporting us. As small farmers like us cannot think of going for cultivation as there will be pressures on land and more labour will depend on unit of land which will make it totally uneconomic and wage of laobur is going to fall and then they will reenter into poverty trap which has brought them out some time back.Naveen Patnaik creates a proper package for helping these farmers and labour otherwise rural economy in Odisha will collapse. One good thing can be started by the government of Odisha by going for having the summer rice in a big way which can keep the labour busy and providing income to the farmers and labour both. This requires some initiatives to be taken by the government of Odisha by allowing the irrigation department in supplying water and agricultural depart in providing the other inputs at a reasonable price. Assuring the farmers to get the rice at government price and collection to be done by the government.

The poor in Odisha lived for some years with dignity by collecting food under the PDS programme but today with the coming of their brothers and sisters as migrant labour it is not sufficient. This year Odisha had a bumper crop and people are unable to sell to government as the storage is full and many of them waiting that the government may pick up their surplus. This is right time to get those food and distribute to the poor and migrant families which can help in keeping them healthy and otherwise once they feel weak recuse of the hunger , they will be the victims of Coronavirus. The chief minister has started a hospital for corona victims but it will be insufficient if the larger number of people suffer from because of hunger and without income.

Poultry farms are suffering a lot because of coronavirus which has no basis but somehow the propoganda machine is working against the young poultry farmers. As they used to collect from Andhra for a decade before, today they are almost self sufficient in production of chickens and eggs but the way farmers are selling a low price even ten rupees KG which is absurd. The government of Odisha must intervene like Andhra Government paying compensation for their losses. The self Help groups played a decisive role in making self sufficient in production of poultry products, their efforts will come to give a blow to women groups who are active in this field.

Local market is Odisha known as hats have been closed as a precautionary measure which has stopped the supply of essential goods and services to village people. Furthermore, small marginal farmers who produce the vegetables sell in the local market and they are unable to do so by which they are suffering from losses and vegetables are getting rotten in the farms which is a big loss to the farming community in Odisha. The government of Odisha needs to compensate their losses and provide essential services and goods such as potato and green vegetables. Local market is Odisha known as hats have been closed as a precautionary measure which has stopped the supply of essential goods and services to village people. Furthermore, small marginal farmers who produce the vegetables sell in the local market and they are unable to do so by which they are suffering from losses and vegetables are getting rotten in the farms which is a big loss to the farming community in Odisha. The government of Odisha needs to compensate their losses and provide essential services and goods such as potato and green vegetables.

Odisha after Bihar has the highest number of migrant labour. Majority of them working in Gujarat and Kerala. The fishermen from Odisha have gone to Kerala to work as the fishermen for collecting fish from the sea. Today they have come back to their homes but the government of Odisha has not yet declared some monthly allowances for one month at least which can save them from the present crisis.Saving them will create moral obligation for the state government which will enrich the human bond between people and Naveen Patnaik.

But these welfare measures are getting threatened under the Janata Curfew as the farming community of Odisha has 75 percentages of landless people who used to work at a higher wage Rs 300 to 350 in various agricultural activities as most of the labouring class have migrated out. With their coming in under Modi’s bandh the wage has fallen drastically and no immediate employment in the countryside. This is the lean season as harvesting of rice has been complete. Till rabi crops come they are without works. From 1999 super cyclone the daily wage got increased and reached three years back Rs300 but last two years it has not increased but suddenly declined. They were the supporters of BJD but today without work and with the falling real wage they might withdraw their support. This is right time for Naveen Patnaik start works in rural Odisha under the NREGA which can sustain the work and employment but wage under the NREGA is around Rs 250 below the market price. It has to increase with the central government’s support by creating employment under the NREGA at the daily wage of Rs 350.

Odisha government has a milk producers’ society which collects milk from the villagers and sells it. This has supported lakhs of small marginal farmers to survive in the market economy. Major portion of milk comes from Phulnakhara to Astharang. For last four days their milk has not been collected by the cooperatives which has resulted the milk producers into debt as the cows need special food which gets bought from the market. As they do not get any money for the last four days they may starve with their cows. Either the central government who are serving the cows no benefits are reaching the milk producers. Furthermore the Odisha government has not taken any step in reviving the dairy economy which may bring sad death to these milk producers and milk cooperatives. The state government must step in to save these poor people.

Odisha is suffering from the migrant workers returned from their workplaces be Kerala or Bombay but no social security package has been announced by the government of Odisha. Their income has helped the people of Odisha to sleep with full stomach but without their employment because of coronavirus their family members are going to suffer from hunger and lack of medical help. This will push them down to the poverty line as Odisha has a high percentage of people are the below the poverty line. That is about 45 percentages of people for which chief minister of Odisha feels proud that the poverty level has come down from 75 to 45 but without any social security system during this bad phase of the year they will be pushed back to the BPL families.

Odisha is facing the disaster like Coronavirus which looking like 1999 super cyclone and kill more people not because of the super cyclone but flash flood from the sea killed ten thousands people. We do not have a strong public health system which can take care of the patients. We do not have social security system for those loosing work and employment. For example in the city of Bhubaneswar there are two lakhs of auto drivers whose daily income is around Rs 500 and for last seven days these vehicles do not move and they do not have income and no supplement from the government of India or Odisha yet. There are lakhs of workers without any income today but no social security system. This is going to be disastrous for the urban people of Odisha. As studies show the percentages of urban poor in Odisha is more than the rural Odisha. They are going to be the worst sufferers during this period. Some time back I wrote in this column advising the government of Odisha going for closing the airport for some time. Today the first case has been reported who is a son of Doctor who has come from England a week before has been found suffering from Coronavirus. His interaction with his father doctor and his friends and family members create fear in the minds of the administrators that keeping the patient in social distancing in the AIMS of Bhubaneswar.
Naveen Babu is the best in managing natural disasters in Odisha but perhaps this lapse may result him a lesson by which Odisha can be saved from Coronavirus. The chief minister of Odisha has taken some preventive measures for protecting people from Coronavirus.His government may use this opportunity to announce the income supplementing policy for the common people specifically workers, small traders and for the old in the urban areas as this is a disease affecting the urban society of Odisha. Providing cooked midday meals to their homes which would have benefited the children. Having a dynamic chief minister at the helm of affairs the state of Odisha may suffer the worst as the spread of Coronavirus goes up in the coming week.

As we do not have public health system as effective as Kerala or Tamilnadu who can provide the health services to affected people. They will run to the private hospitals who can fleece them from left to right. As study shows by Kailash Sharap on the impact of health expenditures on families of Odisha found that the health expenditure is the main reason for making people pauperised. This is going to be an alarming sight for which the government of Odisha can make a plan like Kalia The Chief Minister of Odisha advises the people of Odisha to go for hand washing on regular basis. They can feel more motivated to wash their hands if the government provides a soap to each member of a family while distributing the ration for this month. This will motivate them to keep their hands clean which can protect them from Coronavirus. As 45 percentage of the BPL families live in Odisha it is impossible to spend money for buying the soap as most of the families may not buy soap at all and they wash with miti and clean their hair with miti.project by which affected families get some relief and compensation while they are not going to work. Odisha needs to universalize the Public distribution system as the rich in Odisha are a symbolic few. Those having a little land die of hunger in rural Odisha as either women headed families or sick males who do not contribute. As 90 percentages of people come under the PDS then another ten percentages is a welcome step which the chief minister may relook at this. It will be the first state to declare food for all and ration for all. It is good that dal has been included in the ration.Exclusion creates fear in the minds as many so called people with land die of hunger. It is better to go for inclusion of all than exclusion of any.This will save the bureaucracy its time and state government for incurring money for making cards. As poor are too many and better to provide ration to all. This will improve the health of all and health will help in fighting the Corona. Will Odisha be the second Kerala in the field of provision of welfare measures:food, education and health ? In terms of food supply the chief minister has added an additional quota for a period of three months.

There are 7 Medical colleges and there has been a plan of creating 30 Medical Colleges one in each district of Odisha. There are two hospitals meant for treatment of Corona patients and constructed within last fortnight. Will he go for improving the Public Health centres to provide basic health services to each? We have primary and school education free upto class ten and we have semi skilled and skilled labour for buidling modern Industrial Odisha. We have an old age security and some welfare measures from cradle to death. There is every possibility of going like Kerala Model of governance case of Odisha.

but our public hospitals are in a bad state of affairs according to the Health Status prepared by Nitiayog of central government Odisha stands with UP, Bihar in the bottom four states in providing health services to its people. This is an opportunity to improve our capacity in government medical colleges as the Private Hospitals are not ready to do work regarding public health problem. The government needs to invest in research related to Coronavirus which can benefit people of Odisha. Regarding research output the best medical college in Cuttack SCB Medical College is standing very low rank and that means they do not do research at all which brings out a disappointing picture in the domain of medical research. As Coronavirus has not entered into Odisha yet the best way to prevent is to close the airport by which tourists do not carry the disease to our state. The Chief Minister may be requested as the best manager of disasters it is his duty to take a preventive measure to protect people of the state from the Coronavirus as it is declared as the disaster of the central government. The chief minister has announced that there will be a hospital for treatment of Corona in the capital town. But the real problems there is only one testing centre existing in AIMS Bhubaneswar. As there are seven medical colleges under the control of the government of Odisha which require to open the centres for testing the virus. Furthermore the experience of Odisha government for going private public partnership to start a medical college some years back in Bhabanipatna did not become a success. All these experiences show that having a separate Government Hospital and a medical college in the capital town with the facilities of testing Corona will be better. BJD under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik has been nurtured a social block of the marginal and landless labour through various welfare measures prepared by his government from cradle to death.

Naveen Patnaik’s image as a pro-poor politician has taken a shape during the management of Coronavirus to some extent. He has given a foundation to public health system a year back but during the Lockdown period he succeeded to create a hospital for Coronaviurs specifically. This has come up well and got inaugurated during this period. He started work for the laboring masses under the NREGA. He has added an extra quota for ration holders under the PDS. He has demanded a economic package from the central government for providing social security to migrant labour. His imagination got fired during the challenge from Coronavirus and as a manager of natural disaster he proved that he can manage the man made disasters like the Lockdown.

o o o

Two songs of Eliot and Keats
The basic principle For Good Friday ––
an extract from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’ (East Coker, IV):

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.
Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.
The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food;
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood –
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.


Ideas of loss, of the fickleness of ourselves and the world in which we live.
But what resolutely stands is love. And the past that no one can change.
- From guru dutt

The author Prof Radhakanta Barik can be reached at: radhakantab[at]

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