Palaces For The People
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
People die of starvation as development funds vegetate in state coffers

Orissa: 2,000,000,000 rupees (US$40m) development funds unspent

Friday September 26 2003 13:25 IST

People die of starvation as development funds vegetate in state coffers


BHUBANESWAR: It is an eastern Indian region notorious for droughts and floods that take turns to wreak havoc almost every year. But the greater irony lies elsewhere...

Development funds for the Kalahandi, Koraput and Bolangir belt of western Orissa actually remain unutilised!

The three districts together form one of the most economically backward regions of India that makes headlines for starvation deaths and child sale.

But even as a fresh crisis looms over the area now -- with floods having caused widespread damage to crops -- officials say aid earmarked for it has not been used up.

"Lack of adequate officials and a large number of vacancies in the regions are responsible for the non-utilisation of funds," an official of the finance department told IANS.

A long-term plan for the overall development of these districts was launched in 1998 under which 70 percent of the funds were provided by the federal government and 30 percent by the state.

"The central government provided aid worth Rs.7.1 billion for the 1998-2003 period. But the funds have not been fully unutilised," the official said.

"The state government has been able to provide utilisation certificates for Rs.5.02 billion," he said.

The central government provided the funds to departments for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe development, women and child development, rural development and water resources in Orissa.

But all of them have under-utilised the funds.

Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput first came into focus after a severe drought in 1965-66 that led to a famine and claimed about 1,000 lives.

In 1985-86, the Kashipur region of Koraput hit the headlines following an admission by a district official that 200 people had died of starvation.

In 1988-89, 300 people died of hunger in Orissa but the government did not acknowledge that the deaths were from starvation.

Last year there were reports of about 200 starvation deaths and over a dozen cases of hungry parents selling their children for a pittance.

Nearly 190 people reportedly died of starvation in the three districts between 2000 and 2003. But the government denies these were hunger deaths and attributes them to diseases.

The planning commission sanctioned Rs.2 billion for the current year for the development the three districts.

But the sum was reduced to Rs.1 billion because of the state's inability to spend the money.

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