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The Future Lies In Balance

Odisha, known to the outside world only through the stories of hunger and child sale emanating from the drought belt of Kalahandi, is being recognized as an investment destination. Global players in the industry took note of the state with some coming forward to invest. However, co-existence of Environment and Industry can very well be done in Odisha.

Industrialization has been the central theme of material progress in Odisha for the past one and a half decades. The focus shifted to industry soon after Naveen Patnaik government came to power in 2000. He put the state firmly on the road to industrialization during his second term. The chief minister had obviously realized that development is not possible without patronizing industry.

The issue, as expected, got politicized but Patnaik couldn’t care less. He put his best foot forward and the state attracted big time investments. This not only meant more money through FDI and domestic sources into the industry sector but it also raised state’s profile at the international level.

Odisha, a state till then known to the outside world only through the stories of hunger and child sale emanating from the drought belt of Kalahandi and Nuapada, began to be recognized as an investment destination for the first time. Global players in the industry took note of the state with some coming forward to invest.

What happened is an excellent example of how industrialization can change the image of a state. However, the big question whether all this hype surrounding FDI and other investments in the state actually brought about a qualitative change in its economy still remained.  The answer, even incorrigible cynics would agree, is yes. The standard of living of people, whether members of the tribal community or those from scheduled caste, has changed for the better.

It is true that the change has not been as sweeping as we would have wanted it to be but what has been achieved is quite significant. And this happened against the backdrop of gloomy predictions about economy which was being haunted by largescale corruption.

That, however, is just one way of looking at industrialization, especially in the context of Odisha. The state never had any dearth of naysayers, doubting Thomases and outright cynics who kept picking holes and questioning every good move. Many of them belong to the environmentalist lobby with supposed ecological damage caused by industries being their pet theme.

They have raised the environment Vs industry debate time and again during the last one and a half decade. The debate turned shriller with controversies surrounding some major projects including POSCO’s ambitious steel venture and a bauxite mining project in the Niyamgiri hills raising even political temperature in the state. It is true there were some crucial environmental questions involved and these could have impacted human lives.

But instead of taking this debate to a level where it pitted environmentalists against industry captains, an effort could and should have been made to strike a balance between environment and industry as the two can very well co-exist. There are excellent examples of this in many parts of the world and this could have been easily done in Odisha with both sides willing.

What is important is the determination of stakeholders involved in taking the state forward. If they are keen, industry can prosper and environment, too, can be protected. They should do this for the sake of Odisha and their own sake as their future, too, lies in this state.

About Asutosh Mishra

Senior Journalist & Columnist

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