From the pen APN
I have been staying in a tiny village named Govindapally for the last 10 years. It is at the entrance of Malkangiri district, which is not only one of the most backward districts of Odisha but also of India. I must mention that Malkangiri, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Kalahandi and Rayagada districts of Odisha hold the dubious distinction of having a negative association with poverty, starvation and deprivation.
However, in the last 10 years, many things have gradually changed here. Progress has come slowly and stealthily to the village and has changed the inhabitants’ lives silently. The gradual transformation stretched over a decade, has taken place so sluggishly that the resulting changes do not call your attention immediately. Although some progress has been made, the rate of change is invariably at a snail’s pace.
Today many residents of the village cannot accept the fact that the fruits of social progress which are so easily available to them now were beyond their reach a few years ago. For example, the buses, which used to halt at the roadside earlier, now have a spacious well-planned bus-stand. Now more and more buses ply through the village. And with the increase of traffic, the single roads are now being converted into double roads. The bulldozers have cleaned illegal roadside encroachments to pave the way for widening the road. (After few days you may see a good number of toll-gates on the same highway to suck money from you). Now the local residents do not have to cover a distance of 15 kilometres for bank transactions. Their village is on the road to progress. As a sign of progress, a nationalised bank with ATM facility has come up. The bank’s ATM smiles round the clock with its glow signboards. Now, the villagers do not have to ride 50 kilometres to Balimela (an NAC) to refill their cooking gas cylinders. The Gas Agencies take pleasure in ensuring home delivery of gas cylinders to every consumer. Similarly, a couple of bike showrooms with glass rooms and well to do receptionists have recently come up displaying the latest trendy bikes of their respective brands for sale. Extending railway connectivity to the district is also in the pipeline.
New mobile service providers are erecting their signal towers and promising better coverage, better quality at lesser tariff. New dhabas (hotels) decorated with fairy lights dazzle at night with sweet-smelling delicious dishes. Today you have a restaurant and you see a number of vehicles parked in front of the restaurant. The number of shops has been doubled in the recent years. The market has grown and the value of land in the village has soared up. The inhabitants who own business stalls or houses and give them on rent basis are greatly happy at the growth of the village. Such house owners unconsciously wear a broad lasting smile in public places. They smile at the prospect of the new found pleasing worth of their property. The other day, a grocery shopkeeper and another owner of a ready-made dress material shop, who were renovating their shops, claimed before me that their initiations are nothing but the pioneering steps to import a mall-culture into the village.
In these years many schools are rampantly upgraded and new hostels with colossal height, width and breadth are constructed. However, teachers are engaged on a contract basis to educate the students on a temporary basis in those permanent structures. The Government lays stress on creating proper infrastructure but forgets about appointing quality teachers with proper salary structure. Education and health care are the two non-profitable sectors which are severely hit in our state in the last two decades. No Government sincerely gives due care to these two sectors. The community health centre of the village used to have a qualified doctor but later on the post of doctor remained regularly vacant. Now the community health centre is run at the mercy of other paramedical staff. The pharmacist has replaced the service of the doctor and the people of the locality including myself are well-adapted to it. One month back I discovered that a young doctor wearing a stethoscope around his neck was sitting in the doctor’s chamber. My joy knew no bounds. I wished the doctor a happy stay in the village. As the rain comes rarely to deserts, so a doctor is rarely found in the Health Center of Govindapally.
In the year 2006 when I had come to this place to join as a lecturer, I was home-sick. At that time the mobile service of BSNL had provided enough consolation and mental support to me. The physical distance between me and my parents had been greatly bridged up by the mobile phone. But today I see the local BSNL office is unkempt, dilapidated and largely hidden behind an unwanted bushy growth of grass and other useless plants. The only operator who works there and shoulders all responsibility for the last 12 years has lost all his sincerity. It is because he is made to work contractually for a paltry sum Rs 6000/- for the last 12 years, without any career growth.
Now many private mobile network companies are vying to grab the business opportunity in this area. Last week, I saw many excavators digging trenches by the roadside to lay the network for Reliance Jio in Govindapally. I hope the internet connectivity issues will soon be resolved by the advent of this network in this locality.