As the state celebrates Utkal Diwas on Friday, it is surprising how few people are aware of it or even what it signifies!
The tribal villages of Kotia panchayat under Pottangi block in Koraput district is a case in hand. The people of these villages are oblivious to the fact that on April 1 every year the state celebrates the creation of Orissa. Except a few villagers of the panchayat headquarters, neither does anyone had any idea about the state's 75th Formation Day nor have they ever taken part in the celebration of this auspicious day.
"Utkal Diwas? What is it? We don't have any idea about it. We have never celebrated anything like it. Neither has anyone told us anything about it," Arjun Pangi, who lives in Upper Sembi, a non-descript village, said in Kui language.
Orissa has long been claiming that these villages are part of Orissa. But Oriya as a language has not been able to penetrate most parts of Pottangi block that are bordering Andhra Pradesh. The government has also been running a primary school in the village for several years. But not many in the village can read, write or even understand Oriya.
People alleged that though there is a school in the village, there has been no teacher for many years now. "Though there is a school building, classes have not been held for a single day. We have not seen a teacher come to this school for several years," the Upper Sembi villagers said.
The situation is the same in Kotia panchayat's Dhulipadar, situated about 4 km from Upper Sembi. "We don't know anything about Utkal Diwas and its significance," said Lachana Pangi of Dhulipadar.
The story is quite the same in almost all the 21 villages of Kotia panchayat.
Poeple here said that both the Orissa and Andhra Pradesh governments have been battling for the ownership of these villages for over four decades now. The Orissa government has included Kotia villages as part of the Pottangi Assembly constituency. Andhra Pradesh has it in Salur Assembly and Srikakulam Lok Sabha constituencies. This has put a big question mark on the identity of Kotia, which both Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, claim to be their own. And torn between the conflicting states, Kotia has remained backward.
The people, mostly Kondh tribals, continue to remain below poverty line and are dependent on small time farming, horticulture, fishing and collection of forest produce for their day-to-day needs. Notwithstanding the ground reality, officials are not wanting to dish out lofty claims about developmental works in the area under host of schemes like the MGNREGA, Bharat Nirmal Yojana and Integrated Action Plan.
"All care of the panchayat is being taken by the Orissa government. Though there were was no specific instruction from the government for celebration of Utkal Diwas at the panchayat but our panchayat level officials have been asked to make people aware about the state's Formation Day during the nodal meeting which is held on the 1st of every month," said Sunil Kumar Nayak block development officer of Pottangi.
Like, Kotia panchayat villagers of Bangarigudi, which lies along he Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border, were equally ignorance of Utkal Diwas."Celebration of Utkal Diwas should not be restricted to urban areas only. The state government should try to organize official programmes on this day in border areas so that people could be made aware of the special day and possible intrusion from Border States into Orissa's boundary could be prevented," opined Ajit Sahu, president of Koraput district bar association.