The United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) commences from 9th July and will continue till 18th July in the UN headquarters in New York, which will, among other discussions, review the working of the much touted Agenda 2030, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and suggest course corrections so that we achieve 17 ambitious goals by 2030. The SDGs were adopted in 2015 and this comprehensive review is taking place in the forth year of its implementation.
Last to last week my friend and I visited a village in Puri district of Odisha to distribute some relief material in which is affected by Super Cyclone Fanithat hit the coastal area of the state on May 3 this year.
Let me mention the condition of one hamlet, BhoiSahiin the Kurujangavillage of Kuanpada Panchayat under Gop block of Puri district in Odisha state in India and link to the sustainable development.
The hamlet has 17 households and all of them belong to the Dalit community, which is discriminated in India based on work and descent (DWD). The houses were made up of mud with thatched roof, and were completely damaged during the cyclone with wind speed of 220 kilometer per hour. During the cyclone on May 3, the people stayed in the cyclone shelter in the nearby village that saved their lives.
However, upon return to the home, they faced unimaginable hardship for sustaining their lives. In last two monthssince the cyclone, they have got only 50 kg of rice and 3000 rupees (45 USD approx) and a polythene sheet. That’s all. People also have lost their crops and various sources of livelihood.One can well imagine how a family of five would survive with this miniscule support, as almost all the belongings were lost during cyclone barring some, which they would have taken with them to the cyclone shelter. Some relief from NGOs has come but they are grossly insufficient for minimum living. People are living in half stomach and with a pair of clothes.
It’s been full two months; no support has come to build their shelter nor the government has built any house for them. Each family has been given a scant polythene sheet, which the villagers said is too small for the purpose of a shelter.
The people have made makeshift arrangement to stay. Some have purchased polythene sheets or used the one by the government has given.
The family of Ms Sita Bhoi(In Photo) has built a temporary shedusing bamboo, branches of coconut tree andwrapping it witha polythene sheet. And people like BrajaBhoi has rebuilt a mud-cum-brick house with thatched roof in comparatively a shorter time owing to absence of timely intervention by the government. Braja says “Its rainy days. How can we stay under a polythene sheet? There are snakes and other dangerous insects around. I need a pucca house under PradhanMantriAwasYojana (A government scheme proving puccashelter to the poor people) as soon as possible.”
The question here is why the government has not risen to the occasion to build the houses before the onset of the monsoon. The monsoon (rainy season) in Odisha is full blown now. What the block level authorities have done till now is to do survey to assess the damages. And villagers complain that the authorities have marked their houses as partially damaged though they are fully damaged. The list is displayed in the Panchayat office board.
As part of sustainable development, saving the lives of of people in the state during the cyclone by the Odisha government was an achievement. The state government has always got accolades from international institutions for its pre- disaster preparedness to evacuate people to safer places and thus saving lives. This time also it has got appreciation from the United Nations. The Chief Minister and his administration deservekudos for the same.
But, what about the post – cyclone management? A pucca house should have been built by now in war footing for each family and people should have been given adequate food and clothe to cope up to the situation. If skyscrapers could be built in a month’s time in cities, then why not a small house of for the villagers in a shorter time? Why nothing has come yet to rebuild their sources of livelihood? Why daily employment under Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Scheme is not being given to them now? Why has electricity not been restored? These define the apathy and insensitivity of the political system and the bureaucracy in the state. And anyway, the elections are over now and Mr. Naveen Patnaik has been re-elected for the fifth time to the office as the Chief Minister in June, so why the hurry! People will forget the government’s apathy by the time another election is in corner!!
If this is how 17 families in the Kurujanga village has to live after the cyclone, one can well question about the efficacy of having HLPFs meetings in New York to ensure sustainable development. As my friend Ashok Dash – software professional, who accompanied me to the village, puts it “the government has given one thing to the people for sure, and that is ASSURANCE!”
And what have the ministerial declarations from the previous HLPFs given us? ASSURANCES!!
Author is a senior journalist. E mail id: firstname.lastname@example.org