Community Leaders: The 'Queen-Bees' of Development Process in Orissa
In this article, I have made an effort to trace a major section who plays a graet role in the development process in Orissa i.e. community leaders. This article is very informative and it will give you a transparent picture to eradicate the major hurdles which was happened in Kalinga Nagar in Orissa.
Since the formation of a separate state, Orissa continues to be symbol of abysmal poverty and backwardness. Acute underdevelopment combined with the onslaught of natural calamities has made the life of the Oriya people miserable. While droughts and floods are regular invaders, cyclones and super cyclones make their routine visits, taking heavy tolls. Besides all this misfortunes, nature has blessed the state minerals to fill up the gap. Orissa is the richest state in minerals.
The state, two-thirds of the land surface of which comprise pre-cambrian rocks, possesses 98 per cent of the country's chromite reserves, 71 per cent of its bauxite, 33 per cent of its iron ore and 32 per cent of its manganese resources. Orissa has vast reservoirs of natural resources to spur industrial growth and development. Its fertile land, water resources, mineral wealth, long coastline and forest resources are great assets. Still we are lagging behind to utilize the minerals for the development of Orissa. There are many prime causes, which are the major hurdles for socio-economic development of the state. Community leaders are playing major role in every step of development process and they have the capacity to eradicate all the hurdles in the grass root level.
Orissa has a population of 32 million with a high percentage of scheduled tribes and scheduled castes, approximately 24% of the total population belonging to 62 different ethnic communities, and are mostly backward. About 87% of the population lives in the villages. The Oriyas dwelling in rural Orissa are happy in their small world. Enthusiasm and expectation are the two less concerned words for them. This rural people are very simple and easily captured by anyone who attach emotionally with them. Though they have very minimal exposure to any media, so the community leaders act as the only source of information. They are less concerned about the politics, business, media and religion. They are very reluctant to accept any sort of information, which are not directly related to their day-to-day life. The community leaders are playing the role of opinion leaders and able to influence the rural Oriyas because they are well known, respected, and trusted person for them. The rural public relies upon opinion leader within their peer group(s) to provide reliable information. The local leaders are used the masses as their weapon.
In a state like Orissa, community leaders have a strong influence. Through day-to-day personal contacts, they influence others in matters of decisions and opinion formation. Due to lack of information on a particular issue, the backward community is not in a position to take any decision. They have always been depending on community leaders to reach on any decision, which may vary from family matters to international issues. In the reverse side, the tribal community has always opened to share all the information without thinking the outcome because they are thinking that they are sharing personal matters to a trusted person who can help him at the needed time. These leaders are more aware of the requirements of the rural public.
In many case, the community leader takes this advantage to revolt against the local administration. The community leaders generally come form a upper social, economic or occupational level and they have a special respect in the community. They are more informed about political and social issues as compared to other persons in a atmosphere where the local people will get fillip on the benefits of the industrialization. The local people can feel the breeze of industrialisation in the form of house, healthcare, education and employment facilities. Once the local tribal community convinces on the issue of industrialization, they will fight for the government. Every one knows it is a tedious task but not an impossible the community. They grasp information form different sources; they read newspapers and magazines; they watch the coverage of different issues relating to their society, nation etc. by the broadcast media.
When they exchanged the information to their follower, they are always diluted the original message with his personal views. And the most important part in this type of communication is that they are always using the mast powerful channel (i.e. face-to-face communication) by which they can get all the opportunities to convince the rural tribal community. Basically at the time of election, the role of community leaders is more visible. Because voting behaviour of the backward classes totally depends on the community leaders, who changed their voting intention during the course of the campaign.
Starting form rural development to AIDS awareness programme in the state, the community leaders play a crucial role in the implementation of any policy or programme in Orissa. Without help of this influential group, it will be very difficult for the government or any individual group or any non-government organization (NGO) to enter into the locality. Then it is the responsibility of the government to take the necessary step to convince the community leader by which they come forward to extend their hand to help the government in the development process. When we are talking about development we cannot ignore industrialization because directly it boost the state economy. As we are rich in manpower and mineral, the government has taken the first major step to invite major global giant for utilizing the reddish-gery iron ore.
Taking the advantages of the global demand for steel, the Orissa government has opened the door for the steel giants to invest in Orissa. During the course of time, the Biju Janata Dal-BJP alliance government signed 43 MoUs with private companies for the setting up of as many greenfield steel plants. The State government's Steel and Mines Department estimates the investment in these steel plants to the tune of Rs.1,37,157.85 crores. The areas that would witness mining of iron ore and the setting up of new steel plants and captive power plants are Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Jajpur, Dhenkanal and Angul districts, which are some of the most underdeveloped districts in the State. At the higher level, the government has completed all the formalities to convert Orissa into the No.1 State in the country by quickening the pace of industrialization. But when we consider about the ground reality for setting up of huge steel companies, we have taken aback because of the obstacles came to the site at different stages. The recent Kalinga Nagar firing has killed the spirit of Industrialisation. This is not a new incident for the people of Orissa.
Whenever and wherever any industry plans to lay down the foundation stone, the first and foremost outcome of every project is the same. Either they abandon the project or divert the investment amount to upgrade the established project. Tata steel's earlier proposal to set up a ten million tonne steel project at Gopalpur in Ganjam district had also run into trouble with police opening fire at Sindhigan in the project area on August 7, 1997. Two women had been killed in stampede caused by the police action after which the company shelved the project. The steel project at Gopalpur in Ganjam district proposed by Tata did not take off after residents refused to move out.
If you go deeply into the core issue, you can find community leaders had conspired to create unrest in the industrial area. They have masterminded the entire process and provoked the tribal community by meeting personally or public meeting. The community leaders are always backed by political parties and influenced by the political leaders. Now time has come to think about the state. Above the personal benefits of any particular person, or particular community or any particular party, we should think about the welfare of our state. This is the equal responsibility of government and every Oriya to participate in the development process. Particularly the community leaders should use their third sense before forwarding any step towards destruction, which leads the state backward direction. Day by day our position become worsen in every aspect of life. When government is planning to take any step for the welfare of the state, it is better to support and abolish all the hurdles in the way to development.
Community leaders are the ‘queen-bees’ in a backward state like Orissa. The local administration should involve the community leaders in the development process. Before any huge investment in any area, government should have a face-to-face conversation with the community leaders. Because they have well known about the emerging issues relating to that particular locality. Based on those issues, government should formulate some guideline, which has always benefited to the local community. In the next step, the government should take all the necessary steps to persuade the local backward classes with the help of the community leaders. Before reaching into the final stage, the government should create such task.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author is a media researcher having five years experience in electronic media in the field of Public Relations and Media Relations. His qualifications include a Master in Journalism and Mass Communication, had special paper Advertising and Public Relations.