NROs Can Be The Backbone Of Odisha’s Development

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Odisha is poised to punch well above its weight. That’s because its weight has always been underestimated. But no more. As India is gearing towards achieving an economy of US$ 5 trillion in the next five years, Odisha, India’s best kept secret and the mineral treasure, is readying to unleash a $1-trillion economy.

I foresee Odisha as the ‘conversion capital’ of India – one where the minerals would be converted to products (manufacturing). The growth of upstream and downstream hubs is unstoppable. We are now auctioning our mines. Almost 25% of the country’s iron and manganese ore resources will be up for sale for captive users and merchant miners. By doing so, Odisha, the projected steel capital of India would be the principal provider to India’s targeted 300mt steel capacity by 2030.

Odisha’s mines have a direct influence on the economy of India and world trade as 40% of the country’s steel production would be within Odisha. There are some reports which draw parallels between the mineral-rich Hebei province of China and Odisha. But amidst the mega scale of gushing economic floodgates, I advocate the concurrent growth of human values, soft skills and comity, which are Odisha’s nature.

If ore is in Odisha’s nature, so is congeniality and ‘softness’. How do we maintain the soft core and the hard core? It is a difficult task but certainly doable. Both the governments – the centre and the state are incentivising enterprises to make Odisha a global hub and a dominant coastal business centre to influence the “east geo-politics”. It can’t be done by the government alone.

What is our responsibility in supporting the governments? Odisha is not the same, which it was years ago. It is global and fast changing. In this change, the softer aspects of the state need to be taken care of. With big ticket FDIs waiting to flood, our social fabric needs nutrition. Venezuela is a constant reminder. Active NRO associations like OSA, OSUK operate from dominant economies and our successful NROs are expected to pitch in with the following: –

Involve the younger generations in Odisha-centric thinking

Currently, the GenY of NROs is far removed from the state narratives. It is our onus to make Odisha an interesting topic. Our state development discourses need to be smarter and should cater to the dynamics of the younger lot including their career options.

We should develop a consistent internship programme, which could also help them in their schools/universities in gaining recognition. Post cyclone Fani, Forum For Integrated Development and Research (FIDR), the think tank in Odisha (www.fidrindia.org), started a Citizen School in Konark to equip young people with the skills, access and beliefs they need to thrive as students and succeed as adults in the modern economy.

FIDR envisions a community in which schools and families, partner to provide students with a set of real-world learning experiences that put them on a path to college and career success. Rishav Singh, a school student in Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, California, USA, taught Robotics and worked with the young minds of Konark, amidst the Fani ravaged psyche of the communities. He was a young teacher for students mostly of his age who are from low income families. These students have not been exposed to DIY (do-it-yourself) technology models to help them understand robotics in simple ways.

With the help of the Citizen School in Konark, students all across the network had the opportunity to do many experiments, to meet the curiosities of their brilliant minds. The brilliant minds have been under represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Robotics course gave them the exposure. Rishav, during this internship, gave them a glimpse into what exists outside of their block or their neighbourhood and it is this exposure which would help build the young characters, in a disaster affected environment. After Fani, schools, buildings and houses have been destroyed and the infrastructure has been damaged. Post Fani, communities are gathering courage and gumption to rebuild their lives. The young ones need creative engagement to pull them out of the trauma and the aftermath of the destruction. This programme has been hailed as one of the most original, innovative and impactful programmes in recent times in India, in similar situations.

Rishav’s parents are from Odisha and are mentors of FIDR.

Get Engaged

There are many, in which NROs can get actively involved in development work in Odisha. Not only can they facilitate in investments in sectors like SMEs – plastic, textile & metals, others like education, health but can also help in infusing vigour and dynamism in community development. ICTs for development is an area where our NROs and their children can play a pivotal role. They can help in getting appropriate technologies and pilot them in districts/villages of your preference or origin. This can help the government to replicate the technologies in other areas and scale up. Non-profit think tanks like FIDR can help in diligent implementation of the programmes and give the NROs a reliable partner in Odisha. Reliability and integrity of the civil society organisations have been a sticky issue with the civil society organisations (CSOs) for the NROs. They require a squeaky, clean environment to implement programmes. Impact should not be hampered by processes and players. Understandably so.

Paradigm shift

The NROs need to be sensitised that work in Odisha doesn’t warrant only funds from NROs. More than funds, the state needs technologies, new systems, methods of interventions and dissemination of good practices. The intellect combined with exposure is what is required.

The state is moving ahead at an unimaginable speed and the NROs, by joining the bandwagon would benefit not only from the ‘participation in the transformation’ but also from a tangible take away of experience in a developing economy.

This could be in the shape of recognitions in state-building or in continuity of their endowments in the state or in the distribution of their success in their roots. But if these tenets do not excite, then I don’t think they should dissipate their energies in doing anything in Odisha. Participation in state building is unconditional and if there are impediments faced then they should be met with solutions rather than carps, ridicules or odious comparisons. It is all about mainstreaming. Red carpet treatment should be restricted to only productive, serious associations and not to vacuous bombasts.

Odisha is looking for value additions and not ornamental mediocrity. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is an area where our NROs can contribute to enhance the teaching qualities in our schools and colleges. Many community schools and primary schools are languishing due to lack of quality teaching. The classrooms also need sprucing up in terms of device based smart learning and ICTs.

Adopt your village

If not the state, our NROs can adopt their village(s). Adoption need not necessarily mean funding. Their support would signify they are enabling the villagers in accessing global knowledge, new information, unique opportunities for career growth or higher education, trends analysis of the employment market, ideas for self-employment and the like.

Odisha has enough social security schemes to take care of daily lives. But the state needs impetus to improve the intellect and vision of the youth. That in turn, would strengthen their character and hence the state’s character. More than half the population is below 30. With growing industrialisation, Odisha needs to develop enterprises to cater to the upstream and downstream business opportunities. If we don’t do this, somebody else will.

Smart networking

Aiming at US$1 trillion, the economy is audacious and we need to work towards this target concertedly. The Government of Odisha, in the office of the Resident Commissioner, New Delhi has set up an NRO Cell. This cell can help NROs connect to the sectors and the stakeholders when they come to India, Odisha. Moreover, the Odia associations in Delhi can utilise their influence for the development of the state. In Prabasi Odia Conclave on January 3, 2016, two online portals (Ananya & Odisha Development acting as online teaching) were launched by the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik and Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan.

FIDR had conceptualised, designed and implemented these portals and is currently working to expand the scope by creating a database of NROs and to link them to the respective themes/areas of interest. This would hopefully make collaborations simpler and can be smartly mapped.

FIDR can, with the help of the Odia associations in different countries, take this initiative further, yielding concrete results for the state. Communities in Odisha need life skills more than any hard skills. Hard skills are covered under multiple government schemes but primary education, early childcare need equal attention, if not more. The character of the state depends on how we groom our children in village schools and dropouts. We need simple technologies, smart teaching aids and consistency in interventions. NROs have been doing a lot for their state and it is expected that with the ease of technologies and flexibility of travels and steady networking, they would ramp up their participation in the coming years.

The new team at OSA, OSUK and other associations should be a part of the ‘global Odisha’. The silent juggernaut is bubbling, in-suppressible and all encompassing. Join the highway of growth! This is a lifetime opportunity in state-building and nation-building.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are that of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of the web portal.

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