From ISI espionage to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi praising an ASHA worker in 'Maan Ki Baat', 2015 was eventful for the Northern Odisha region. While Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Bhadrak districts made good progress on rural development and infrastructure fronts, farmers’ suicides due to drought and distress sale of paddy dented the district administrations' image in the last part of the year.
PEOPLE WHO MADE HEADLINES
Balasore made the national headline in the beginning of the year with the arrest of Iswar Chandra Behera, a suspected ISI mole from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), a unit of DRDO. Contractual employee Behera, a native of Mayurbhanj was arrested on January 23 by a special team of police following IB inputs.
There was some good news for the region towards the year end as Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised ASHA worker Jamuna Mani Singh (28) from Balasore district for her untiring fight against fatal Malaria and water borne diseases like diarrhoea in his monthly radio programme – Maan Ki Baat.
Draupadi Murmu from Mayurbhanj made Odisha proud as she was appointed as the first woman Governor of Jharkhand in May. A two-time BJP MLA, Murmu was a Minister in the Naveen Patnaik Cabinet from 2000-2004 when the BJD ruled the State with the support of BJP. She had headed the BJP’s Mayurbhanj district unit and represented Rairangpur Assembly constituency twice.
At 30, Rabinarayan Barik of Simulia village in Balasore district set an example for others by becoming the topper in English in the annual Plus-III examination. Rabinarayan, a student of Srinibas College at Mangalpur near Soro, secured 66 percent marks in English honours subject, which is an all time record for the Fakir Mohan University.
Tribal dominated Mayurbhanj became first in the State to be declared as student drop-out free district. The district was also adjudged as best district for its effective initiatives in implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
When the suicidal deaths of farmers over loss of crops continue to haunt the State Government, a debt-ridden farmer Baidhar Mahalik (55) of Sundarpur village under Chandabali block in Bhadrak district set an example for others by donating his eyes after his death.
Worried over crop loss due to deficit rain, he had allegedly consumed pesticides. He succumbed while undergoing treatment in the SCB medical college and hospital at Cuttack. As per his last wish his family members donated his eyes to the medical authorities.
At least 13 farmers in the three districts, 7 in Mayurbhanj, 3 each in Balasore and Bhadrak districts committed suicide fearing that it may not be possible for them to repay the loan they had taken for kharif crops.
Mayurbhanj was declared first drought hit district of the State as the kharif crops in almost 26 blocks were severely affected due to deficit rainfall. Though the condition was no better in Balasore in Bhadrak, the farmers were forced to sale paddy to the traders from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh as the district administrations failed to open mandis and market yards in time.
HORSES VS ELEPHANTS
Perturbed over frequent elephant menaces in Mayurbhanj district, the forest officials adopted a noble method to drive out the marauding jumbos from neighbouring West Bengal and Jharkhand. They deployed horses to chase the rampaging elephant herd and became successful.
In November and December, ten elephants were found dead. While one had died of anthrax in Kuldiha reserve forest of Balasore, rest were found dead in various circumstances in Mayurbhanj. The forest authorities placed a forester and woman forest guard under suspension in connection with the death of an elephant in Jamda area.
The Centre gave its nod for the renovation work of Amarda Road-Rasgobindpur airstrip which will be made fully operational very soon. Once renovated, the airstrip would prove a boon for the entire north Odisha by giving a boost to the trade, commerce and industrial activities besides being helpful during natural calamities for relief and rescue operations. Balasore, Bhadrak and Baripada towns were included in the Centre sponsored Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). While the construction of rail over bridges at Tamulia (entry of Balasore) and Soro is on in full swing, the Ministry of Railways has decided to construct four more bridges in Balasore district. The Basta Railway station has been chosen to be developed under the Adarsh station scheme and works will commence soon.
However, Balasore’s performance was dismal in executing housing schemes. It ranked last in the State in implementing Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana (BPGY) which was an election promise of the BJD government. Of the sanctioned 5,548 houses, only 358 houses were completed which is only 7 percent of the target.
Balasore MP Rabindra Kumar Jena introduced two Private Member bills in the Lok Sabha this time. They include Road Safety Bill – 2015 and Protection of Refugees and Asylum Seekers Bill – 2015. He has proposed to replace the existing Motor vehicles Act 1988 with a comprehensive protective framework for all class of road in the Lok Sabha.
Even as the State Government initiated process to upgrade the Balasore headquarters hospital as a medical college and hospital, shortage of doctors, paramedical staffs and beds severely crippled the health services in Balasore. Of the sanctioned 222 posts of doctors, 73 posts were lying vacant.
Mayurbhanj district recorded high child mortality rate due to lack of infrastructure and facilities for treatment. According to official reports as many as 427 children had died in the last three-and-a-half-year in the district.
In industry front, Emami Paper Mills Ltd (EPML), the country's largest newsprint manufacturer at Balasore, announced to increase its investment in paperboards to Rs 2,000 crore in the next three years. Leading ferro alloy companies Balasore Alloys Limited (BAL) set a target to go for a monthly production of 10,000 tonne and later enhance to 12,000 tonne.
A temporary campus of the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) was inaugurated at Balasore on July 4. Besides creating job opportunities, it is expected to open export avenues of software and IT services. The administration identified nearly 2,600 acres of land in Bhogarai block of Balasore district for the proposed Rs 3,500 crore solar power project having a capacity of 500 mega watt.
Opening of two eco-tourism projects at Kumari and Devkund in Similipal biosphere boosted the tourism potential of the national park. Similarly, in a bid to draw more tourists to Talasari beach in Balasore district and boost its basic amenities, Talasari-Udaypur Development Authority has been constituted.
Some facts about the presence of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose post 1945 came to the fore by end of this year. Days before the proposed visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Russia, a group of activists and researchers claimed that the ‘mysterious’ man present during the historical declaration between India and Pakistan at Tashkent in Russia in 1966 was none other than Bose.
Armed with a certified forensic face-mapping report prepared by a UK-based facial mapping, CCTV and height analysis expert Neil Millar, recently, the team – Mission Netaji – urged PM Modi to take up the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In crime front, Bhadrak police arrested three minors in connection with the kidnap and murder of a six-year-old boy. The minor boy was found dead in an air-bag in the house of prime accused. The CBI sleuths raided different branch offices of ponzi firm Green Ray International Limited (GRIL) which is accused of mobilizing more than Rs 2,000 crore from 13 States. A nurse Chanchala Das was suspended for allegedly 'kicking' a pregnant woman at the Baripada District Headquarters Hospital (DHH) on October 5. The woman later died after delivering a stillborn baby sparking off tension on the hospital premises.
Sand mafias from West Bengal and the administration of Jaleswar along with the residents of villages close to Subarnarekha river were at loggerheads throughout the year over illegal lifting of sand from the river bed. Raising the issue in the State Assembly, Chief Whip Ananta Das had demanded deployment of additional forces.
Former Minister and District Congress Committee (DCC) President Kartik Chandra Mohapatra, known as a leader of the masses, passed away at 63, on July 12 mid night while undergoing treatment in a private hospital in New Delhi.
Headmaster of Budakhunta Upgraded Upper Primary School in Oupada block of Balasore district was placed under suspension for allegedly asking his staffs and students to condole the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.