Swaraj Orissa


Orissa as the English has named it, is properly named in India’s National Anthem as Utkal. It means advanced in art, crafts and sculptures. There are great number of such historical monuments having finest pieces of arts and architecture. It is evident that Utkal was once prosperous. The ancient export communities called “Saadhaba” were trading with spices and fine qualities of clothes, sarees in the erstwhile Java, Borneo, Sumatra, and Sri Lanka.

With the domination of British rule over India Utkala also lost its trade prosperity, traditional land use pattern and even its past name and fame.

Now it said to be one of the poorest provinces, although there is bountiful natural resources and huge stock of minerals and large number of working forces. This is the state of poverty amidst plenty. What could be the reasons of such reverse condition? One of the main reason, of course, could be lack of proper planning, lack of peoples participation in their own sustainable development and due to unscrupulous exploitation of both the nature and the people such a sorry state of affairs come into existence.

A Case of Unsustainable Agriculture & Landlessness

Based upon a study, through participatory process, in ten villages of coastal belt of Orissa. It is observed that 85% of villagers depend on agriculture. But 70 % of them have no land of their own. Those who have land, do cash crops like sugar. The exploitative agents of sugar mills also trap the sugar cane cultivators. In general, the farmers are not getting minimum reasonable prices for their crops. They have become indebted to Sahukars (Moneylenders) and commercial banks by getting loan to purchase fertilisers, pesticides and even seeds at higher rate. On the other hand the land requires heavier doses of such inorganic substances. Large number of work force goes to cities as contract labour called Dadan Shramik, most of who are exploited and tortured.


The people of southwestern Orissa including Kalahandi and Phulbani depend more on forest then agriculture. It has been observed that due to degradation of forest and depletion of minor forest produce the forest dwellers are starving. The anti-people forest policies are addicting to their suffering. Recent Supreme Court order to evacuate the people from the areas, which are declared has sanctuary, compels the inhabitants to be displaced from their own land. The Sagoda gram panchayat of Kalahandi is one of such example.

Though, there is vast area of forest and hills in northwestern Orissa, it not thought to have sanctuary there as there is plan to exploit the minerals. As per a study by social activists, 70 mining operations are undertaken in one tribal belt of Sundargarh district. Iron ore, Manganese and Bauxite are extracted from the depth up to 500 feet from earth. After the act of blasting and digging the iron ore, it is crushed in to small pieces. Most of these processes were done by daily wage labour employed by the mineworkers and contractors.

After completing some chemical processes the small pieces are transported to the still plants of Rourkela (Orissa), Jamshedpur (Bihar), Champa (MP), Nagpur (Maharashtra) etc. during these process a large amount of dust arsenic particle, chemicals are dumped into near by pounds, ditches, streams and even on private land. These left over waste materials externally harmful to all living being. It pollutes water, land, and air. It causes tuberculosis, asthma and skin disease.

More and more lands are leased out to the private exploiters of mineral without considering the environment and traditional agriculture. The profit – hankering mines owners and the conscienceless – contractors with nexus of the never satisfied bureaucrats’ unscrupulously are allowing the reckless cutting of forest. There is rule to do plantation on double the area of clearing of the forest for mining operation. But no body takes any step to comply with the rules and for forestation.

Due to extensive deforestation, particularly due to more destruction of Sal trees, the piping affect of the big Sal trees has been seized and consequently the ground water level has gone down and down. On the other hand, the surface water sources of ponds, steams are growing dry earlier before summer. Due to mining operation land, water, and forest are ruined which has adversely affected the traditional tribal life. Automation and mechanisation the wage labour more particularly the local women are loosing the jobs. Firstly, their traditional life and agriculture was ruined. Then they are kicked out of wage works. Now the local inhabitants have to face the violent actions done by the outsider labour, contractors, and exploiters.

Thus one can visualised that the people’s life both in coastal belt and that of tribal belt are adversely affected by present process of development.





Meeting of Swaraj – Orissa fellows and co-ordinator with regional co-ordinator.

SWARAJ-Orissa formed on 2nd March 1997 in the state. Currently, Swaraj operates in seven districts covering 160 villages. The IRN- Orissa is also part of the state unit. (Details in IRN chapter). There are 7 partner organisations associated with the programme. The fund for the state programme is routed through Lok Bikash, a local NGO and one of the partner organisations of Swaraj. There are 7 fellows (3 women and 4 men) associated with the state programme including the coordinator. All the fellows have between 5-15 years of experience in development sector. All of them are also part of social action groups/ people’s movements etc.

PSP Process in SJ-Orissa-

At first five persons participated in Durgapur w/s. A state level w/s was held in Dhenkanal to introduce SWARAJ and PSP and to discuss about the New Economic Policy. Introductory PSP w/s was held at Mundigarh, in Kandhamal and 17 persons was selected who participated in National training of facilitators, and National w/s held at Goa in May 1998. Again fur persons from the state participated in National PSP refresher Course in July-August 1998. A five days National w/s on documentation was held at Sijuput where six persons from Orissa participated. Some systematic guideline were with formats were developed soon after the this National w/s a state level planning meeting was organised, where an action plan was chalked out to carry on intensive and extensive capacitation programme in eight districts. Two teams of eight PSP Facilitators distributed their task to cover all these districts and to conduct PSP w/s for 64 activists of 16 organisations. These 64 facilitators from 16 organisation capacitated the village / community level facilitators.

After the initial training of fellows in the PSP process, the same was carried to the villages. A large number of villagers were trained as community level facilitators. The PSP process was adapted in the villages using local media such as street plays, folk songs, games, pictures etc.

1.       Degradation of agriculture failed

2.       Lack of irrigation

3.       Drought

4.       Lack of cottage Industries

5.       Unemployment

6.       Degradation of forest

7.       Big dam

8.       Sanctuary and displacement

9.       Pollution of land, water, air due to mines

10.    Detonation of traditional culture

11.    Dowry

12.    Atrocities amongst women

13.    Child labour

14.    Malaria

15.    High Infant Mortality Rate, Mother Mortality rate and health problems

16.    Shortage of drinking Water


1.      Degradation of Agricultural field

2.      Lack of cottage industries

3.      Unemployment

4.      Displacement due to project like dams, mines, sanctuaries etc.

5.      Health problems

6.      Gender disparity



1.  Struggle for right over land, water, forest and self-rule,

2.  Empowerment of women, adivasis and poor people,

3.  Strengthening people’s organisation by legal literacy, literacy on NEP and sharing information.

4.  Revival of indigenous craft and occupation.


Currently, the number of villages covered by the 7 fellows is 35 but the spread effect and contact is in a total of 160 villages in the State. Besides, under Indian River Network activities have been undertaken in 10 villages. With constant supervision and guidance from the National Support Team, particularly the National Coordinator, a number of initiatives have been taken up in different fields.










According to the state coordinator during the past two and a half years, there has been a visible impact in the social, political and cultural spheres of the community. However in the economic aspects there has only been a very marginal improvement, as the focus of Swaraj is not on this.

–        Local contribution from the community (cash and kind) for programmes and activities of Swaraj is around 60%.

–        Cadre building at the community level and enhancing their capacities is an ongoing process.

–        Total number of SHGs formed 91. Some SHGs have been linked with banks for agricultural activities. Training on group savings, skill up gradation and IGP to SHG members.

–        SHG members engaged in various IGP such as tailoring, embroidery, rice processing, leaf plate making, badi and papad, bamboo and cane work, etc.

–        27 youth groups have been organised.

–        Forest protection committees are initiated in 23 villages. Women’s involvement is high in these committees.

–        Gram Kosh initiated in 42 villages.

–        26 (including women and men) people from the operational villages have been elected to the PRI during the last elections.

–        Campaign against alcoholism is taken up in 40 villages with the active participation of women and youth.

–        Krishi Samitis having both women and men as members have been formed in 27 villages.

–        Participation in government programmes namely pulse polio, leprosy eradication, blindness control, immunisation, total literacy campaign, watershed development, etc.

–        Awareness and information provided to the community on natural hazards like sunstroke, cyclone, floods, etc. during meetings, workshops etc.

–        Addressing the issue of school dropouts and the importance of education by motivating parents to send their children to school.

–        Ensuring regular attendance of teachers in schools through creating pressure groups by SHGs and youth groups.

–        Survey on child labour undertaken.

–        Land right movement (get patta for landless) – Though the Government has taken various initiatives to distribute land to the landless it is not successfully implemented. Campaigns organised by the partners to get patta.

–        Movement to get right wages for mine workers – mine workers have never got their due wages. Partners have organised them and protested in demand of actual wage for them.

–        Awareness camps on social issues- health, environment, legal counselling, socio-political rights and movement against exploitation.

–        Active participation in relief and rehabilitation in collaboration with government agencies, donors and other local NGOs after the October 1999 super cyclone.

–        There have been instances when the volunteers from the community leave and the process of identifying and training new volunteers takes a long time.

–        The community has been contributing in all Swaraj programmes and activities. The village level programmes are usually organised with 100% contribution from the community. Besides giving their time and presence, the villagers arrange for food, accommodation and at times even money. However, in recent times there is a slight reluctance on the part of the community to contribute. As most of them come from very poor backgrounds, it is unfair to expect so much from them.

–        There are no funds available from Swaraj to organise capacity and skill building programmes at the community level. This is one of the core areas of Swaraj but lack of resources has proved to be a problem.

–        The presence of NGOs with substantial resources operating in the neighbourhood creates expectations among the community. At times it becomes very difficult to convince the community that Swaraj’s approach is a long-term, sustainable and empowering process. It is a serious challenge.