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New Odisha Planning Board member lives in thatched house, seeks a pucca house

Despite having brought laurels to Odisha by preserving hundreds of local varieties of paddy, Kamala Pujari continues to live in a mud-and-thatch house in Patraput village of Koraput district.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2018 11:33 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Odisha Planning Board member,Tribal Woman,Kamala Pujari
Odisha State Planning Board member Kamala Pujari’s house in Patraput village of Koraput district.(HT PHOTO)

She has just been nominated as a member of the Odisha State Planning Board, but 68-year-old tribal woman Kamala Pujari does not have a pucca roof over her head.

Pujari, from the Bhumia community, was nominated two days ago along with four others as members of the board that makes five-year plans for the state and the 30 districts apart from providing short-and long-term policy guidelines.

But the honour may have brought little cheer for the widow, who, despite having brought laurels to Odisha by preserving hundreds of local varieties of paddy, continues to live in a mud-and-thatch house in Patraput village of Koraput district with her two sons.

Pujari, who still tills her land to make a living, is reported to have told her family members that she would have been happier with a pucca house than a membership of the planning board.

Kamala Pujari (HT PHOTO)

“She is hardly enthused by the CM’s announcement of making her a member of the State Planning Board. She wanted a pucca house of her own under any government scheme than these posts,” said Sudam Pujari, her grandson who studies in class 12.

Pujari, who had brought laurels to Odisha by winning the ‘Equator Initiative Award’ in South Africa in 2002, had a hostel building in Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology in Bhubaneswar named after her.

The irony is not lost on her family members. “My grandmother gets invited to inaugurate buildings named after her. But why can’t the government give her a pucca house?” asked her grandson.

Pujari’s family members said she had applied for a house under the Indira Awas Yojana in 2016, but it was not granted. However, her younger son Tankadhar has been allocated a pucca house under the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Awas Yojana, which is still under construction. Till last month, about 42% of Odisha’s 27.52 lakh households were covered under various government housing schemes.

Headed by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, the State Planning Board is more of a rehabilitation ground for disgruntled ruling party members. In September last year, the state government told the Assembly that the Planning Board has not met even once in the past 10 years.

A year ago, the board made news when Patnaik recalled then Rajya Sabha MP Bishnu Charan Das and made him deputy chairperson. However, the body has virtually become defunct and has met only three times during Naveen's 18-year tenure.

Pujari is a known name in Koraput for having persuaded villagers in her area to shun chemical fertilisers and adopt organic farming for better harvest and soil fertility. After getting trained at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation at Jeypore, she organised group meetings, interactedwith the villagers and convinced them to take up organic farming.

First Published: Mar 23, 2018 09:25 IST