WODC office not opened in region due to lack of consensus among member districts: Minister

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Bhubaneswar, Mar 20 (PTI) The Odisha government Saturday said the WODC office could not be opened in the region due to lack of consensus among the member districts even as opposition BJP and Congress blamed the state's BJD government for lacking the will to develop the backward area.

The issue relating to the Western Odisha Development Council (WODC) was discussed in the assembly over a notice served by Congress members where they alleged that the council works in a directionless mode leading to no progress of the region.

Replying to the debate, Planning and Convergence Minister P N Behera said that the WODC office could not be opened as there is a lack of consensus among the districts in the region on the location of its headquarters.

Ten districts - Bargarh, Bolangir, Boudh, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Sundergarh and Athmallick sub-division of Angul district are part of the WODC.

The WODC was set up for the development of the areas in order to bridge regional imbalance in the state.

The minister said since its inception in 1998, the government has allocated Rs 1682.52 crore for the WODC's developmental activities. From just Rs 50 crore allocation a year, the amount has now been raised to Rs 200 crore, the minister pointed out.

He, also informed the House that the Council will soon be reconstituted by taking more members.

The opposition members alleged that the WODC authorities do not approve the projects (agriculture and irrigation) given by the MLAs and MPs while the proposals of vested interest persons are being implemented in the name of community projects.

Congress member S S Saluja, who hails from Bolangir district, claimed that though the WODC was formed more than 22 years ago, no visible development is seen in the region.

'There is no vision of the WODC and it moved in a directionless mode,' Saluja alleged adding that the council has turned out to be rehabilitation centre for BJD leaders and retired officers.

Noting that migration is the biggest problem in the western region of the state, Saluja said the WODC has no such project to provide employment to the people for which more and more number of youths are now migrating to other states in search of work.

Though a large number of migrant workers returned to the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WODC had no such project for them. While these 10 backward districts require Rs 1,000 crore a year, the government has allocated only Rs 200 crore in 2021-22 budget, said Congress MLA Adhiraj Panigrahi.