Bhubaneswar: When the sun sets over the villages in Chandrapur block of southern Odisha’s Rayagada district, the tiny habitations are enveloped in darkness and fear in equal measure. The fear of Maoist violence looms over the tribal villagers despite a decline in the rebels’ disruptive activities in recent months, and government officials remain extremely wary.
Such a situation rankled a 27-year-old IAS officer working in the district so much that he took a motorcycle journey to these villages with a team of officials and spent three days and two nights there. For Amrit Ruturaj, the project director of District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) in Rayagada, it was as much an eye-opening experience as it was an event laden with immense hope for the hapless villagers.
“Since Chandrapur is still counted among inaccessible areas, our outreach there has remained low. The residents also have a trust deficit with the administration. I and my team visited nearly 60 villages in four panchayats, and we spent three days and two nights there,” Ruturaj, a 2014-batch IAS officer, told News18.
Born and brought up in a village in Umerkote in Nabarangapur district, Ruturaj had no problem spending time in the villages in Chandrapur. The alumnus of Ravenshaw College in Cuttack and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi got witnessed the problems of the rural people.
“The problems that people in these areas face are very basic in nature such as unconnected habitations and unavailability of drinking water. Besides, there are people left out from pension benefits and livelihood programmes,” he said. “My visit to these villages was aimed at knowing the people’s problems first-hand so as to speed up the resolutions. It was also aimed at sending out a message that it is not difficult (for government officials) to work and live in these areas as the situation has improved to a large extent in recent years,” he added.
During his tour through the villages on two-wheeler and his interactions with hundreds of villagers, Ruturaj said he also took some instant decisions there about resolving problems like building roads and digging hand pumps for drinking water.
“Since these areas have so far remained mostly unattended, there is a myth about them, and people (government officials) believe they have to return to the headquarters town at the end of the day. I spent two nights there with the aim of breaking this psychological barrier,” he said.
Lekeda Alugudi, a marginal farmer in Bijupur village, was elated to see an IAS officer happily spending time in the village. “Government officials generally get a sense of fear when they have to visit Chandrapur. But this IAS officer spent three days amidst the people and saw the problems we face. We hope the PD (project director) Sir will soon take decisions that will bring development to our areas,” he said.
“PD (project director) Sir spent three days in our backward Chandrapur block, where we have poor road communication and bad mobile phone network. Absence of electricity is a major obstacle for education of young people here,” said Anjana Malabishoyi of Hanumantpur village, a student of class 10.
With inputs from Niranjan Palo.