BHUBANESWAR: Congress MP Pradeep Majhi is a worried man these days. For the last one month, Nabarangpur, his constituency, has witnessed a freeze in government’s welfare programmes. Several parts of his constituency are Left Wing Extremist (LWE)-affected.
With security forces abandoning operations in the wake of the Maoist hostage drama, officials are reluctant to visit the remote areas.
More than a month after Maoists kidnapped two Italian nationals from Kandhamal, the Odisha Government seems to have slipped into a state of coma. A governance paralysis has gripped as the entire focus of the administration is on the hostage crisis.
The two Italian nationals, Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo, were kidnapped on March 14 by the group led by Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee of the CPI (Maoist). A week later on April 24, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA from Laxmipur Jhina Hikaka was kidnapped by a rival Maoist group, the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC).
Though the extremists have released the Italian nationals, the crisis relating to the BJD legislator drags on, much to the embarrassment of the state government. Hikaka’s kidnapping has not only brought to a standstill all counter-Naxalites action of the police and Central paramilitary forces, it has also severely affected implementation of development and welfare programmes in the Maoist-affected areas, Majhi said.
Majhi’s seat Nabarangpur lies adjacent to Koraput Lok Sabha seat and borders Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where the Left ultras hold the sway. Now nothing moves in these areas since the state government was compelled to stop anti-Naxalites operation following the two kidnappings. By the government’s own admission, 20 of the 30 districts of the state are Maoist-affected which are mostly tribal-dominated.
“There is an atmosphere of fear in the Maoist-affected areas. Functioning of tehsil, block and schools have stopped. A person who does not belong to these areas cannot comprehend the sense of tension among the local people here,” Majhi said.
Interestingly, three key government officials—home secretary UN Behera, panchayatiraj secretary P K Jena and secretary in the scheduled castes and scheduled tribe development department Santosh Sarangi—are busy with the hostage crisis ever since they were named as the government mediators. As a result of this, governance has suffered in key sectors, Congress chief whip Assembly Prasad Harichandan said.
“The state government has failed to take action in the key sectors where it lacks. The census report has brought to fore deficiencies in drinking water supply, connectivity and electricity connection in several parts of the state. But the state government does not have the time to ponder over these difficulties and instead engaged the key officers in hostage crisis management,” he said.
The months of April and May are when development works are expedited after passing of the budget in the Assembly in March. But there seems to be no movement, Harichandan pointed out and added that all works have come to a halt.
There seems to be a paralysis in the policy front also. Only one cabinet meeting was held in March in which 19 agenda were passed within just one-and-a-half hours. The most important work Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has performed during the last one last month was a visit to Laxmipur to meet the family members of Hikaka and meet his partymen there. He also attended the internal security meeting convened by the Centre in New Delhi recently.
The situation is likely to worsen in the coming days as there seems to be no possibility of an early solution to the hostage crisis in the near future. Issuing a fresh audio tape on April 20, the Maoists have said they will hold the praja court by April 25 and Hikaka’s fate will be decided there. They have also given a bandh call on April 20 and 21.
Besides, they will observe a protest week from April 24 demanding a stop to operation Green Hunt. These activities are likely to further affect the governance in the tribal districts.