Addressing Inequality, Embracing the Industrial Economy

IIt is not true that the state of Odisha is not developing, but the fact is that when comparing it with other states, its position remains at the bottom of many social and economic indicators due to its slow growth.

Odisha is not among the top ten developed states of India. Internationally, its IMR and RMM are just equal to the condition of Ethiopia and Sub-Saharan Africa. There have been huge persistent regional imbalances within the state and persistent inequalities in socio-economic status between different ethnic and social groups.

The poor economic situation of a majority of the state’s rural population is characterized by poor living standards, low wage rates, and both seasonal and long-term distress migration. The state remains a predominantly traditional agricultural economy with no visible development of the industrial and service sector.

In the process of low industrial and manufacturing employment growth, rural youth prefer to migrate to industrially advanced states and metropolises in search of employment as the best option for their future. The trend of migration has increased lately due to the frequent visitation of natural calamities which further affect the agricultural economy. The State did not use its human resources. It is not becoming an attractive economic destination; rather, it is seen as a labour-supplying state. Maybe few Odias are better placed nationally and internationally but that could not change the overall image of the state.

The state has failed in many ways to take advantage of the Indian government’s policies of globalization and liberalization since the 1990s. In particular, its inability to mobilize private and public investment in the non-mining sector despite its potential is a major drawback.

There has been no visible change in the coastal areas of the state. It has done little in primary health and education, communication, transport, coastal development, agribusiness, tourism, banking, insurance, manufacturing and tailoring . Not a single national manufacturing hub is promoted in the state. Rapid industrialization can change both the material and social condition of the people of Odisha.

Government must take action to address our many forms of inequality in social life, especially inequality of status and opportunity, income and assets by establishing a level playing field.

Inequalities can be addressed by improving production and growth in all sectors of the economy, not just relying on traditional agriculture.

The ideas of social justice in our constitution must be reflected in our changing economic systems to eliminate economic and social inequalities and ensure a decent standard of living for working people.

Unfortunately, over the past 72 years, inequality has remained a concern. There are a multitude of programs for slums and hamlets, but they have failed to ensure people’s well-being by reducing poverty. The political parties in the state that are fighting against the elections do not have a development program before the people for the whole state; instead, they regularly give gifts to get the vote. These days, ruling parties are engaged in bribing people with booze, feasts and money to woo voters.

In a modern rule of law with a multi-party democracy, it is the duty of political parties to lead the people towards the construction of a developed society, but unfortunately the parties in power are not serious about the state of the economy. They are more interested in staying in power by managing voters.

Many of our historically unresolved social issues such as caste, gender and ethnic discrimination are closely tied to the feudal agrarian economic system. Landless labourers, sharecroppers, small marginal farmers have no future in the ongoing agrarian economy of Odisha. For 70 years, the State has not initiated any agrarian reform to change the feudal mode of the production relationship because it turns out that the real cultivators still do not have land to cultivate and are deprived of all kinds of protection from the state.

Overpopulated people in the agrarian sector must move to other sectors of the economy and the modernization of agriculture must succeed in developing a new generation of farmers using the best available technology.

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