Orissa Human Development Report

Mar 24, 2005

Bhubaneswar, 24 March 2005 - The Orissa Human Development 2004 was launched in Bhubaneswar today by the State Chief Minister, Mr. Naveen Patnaik in the presence of the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative and the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Maxine Olson. The HDR has been independently prepared through a consultative process with the full participation of the Government of Orissa. The Union Planning Commission and the UNDP have supported the preparation of the State HDR. The Orissa HDR is the first for the State. It is the twelfth State to release its State HDR and 12 others are underway. Speaking on the occasion Mr. Patnaik pointed out that “the Orissa HDR attempts to make an independent and objective assessment of the status of human development in the State and also underscores the challenges ahead and offers new opportunities.” Highlighting the main elements of the State’s Development Strategy the Chief Minister said building rural and urban infrastructure, attracting private investment, strengthening social security systems and mobilizing and energizing the rural poor will be a priority. Steps taken by the State Government include Mission Shakti to empower women, launching the Infant Mortality Mission to reduce IMR, and a new health strategy.

Dr. Maxine Olson in her opening remarks said that “the Report analyses the State’s attainments vis-à-vis three basic parameters that define human development – livelihood, health and education. Besides these three components of human development the HDR analyses some key issues that are central to human development in the State’s context such as food security and vulnerability to natural disasters. It discusses the problems faced by groups that need special attention such as women and the scheduled tribes”. “It also makes a strong case for public action by government and civil society to improve the quality of basic services, empowerment of communities in natural resource management and disaster risk reduction “ she added.

The HDR highlights that poverty in Orissa is overwhelmingly a rural phenomenon with significant regional differences within the state. The southern and northern regions are among the poorer areas. The overall reduction in the poverty ratio has also been slow.In Orissa food availability is fairly comfortable yet food insecurity is chronic and the state has been placed in the category of “severely food insecure” regions. This has been attributed primarily to a vulnerable rural population with poor livelihood access or livelihoods susceptible to natural disasters. 48% of women suffer from nutritional deficiency while for illiterate women and for poor women this is much higher at around 55%. Over 60% women and over 70% children suffer from some degree of anemia. According to the Orissa HDR one of the most significant factors is that the access to the Public Distribution System (PDS) and its utilization by the poor is very limited. The Report also points out that in this context the growth process alone is not enough to ensure sustainable long term food security. It emphasizes the need for strengthening the targeted PDS schemes and the targeted nutritional interventions and also suggests measures like empowering local communities to manage risks and uncertainties of food access through grain banks run by villagers together with the revival and development of productive resources of villages like land, water and forests.

The infant mortality rate, a key indicator of the overall status of health, continues to be the highest in Orissa at 91 per 1000 live births (in 2001). This has been attributed to poor professional attendance at birth, high percentage of low birth weight babies and lack of professional post-natal care. On the health front diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and gastroenteritis are also posing a serious challenge to the health system. Availability and access to public health services is generally poor, however, the problem is most acute for the tribal population which is the most disadvantaged social group in Orissa says the Report. Policy measures suggested in the HDR include: involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions, local NGOs and Self Help Groups in managing public health care institutions particularly in remote and tribal districts; efforts to increase safe deliveries particularly for the tribal population; intensify the child immunization drive; and strengthen vector control programmes to tackle malaria, among the most critical health problems in the state.

While the overall literacy rate in the state is 63.61% (close to the all-India level) gender disparities are significant. At 972 females per 1000 males Orissa has a relatively favourable sex ratio as compared to the all-India level. However, discrimination against women remains a serious challenge. Female life expectancy at birth in Orissa is 60 years, much lower than the national average of 66.91 years while almost half the women suffer from problems of nutritional deficiency. They are also more vulnerable to diseases and sickness because of the gender bias in health care access and practices and health seeking behaviour. Women are predominantly employed in labour-intensive unskilled jobs with less security of tenure and lower wages. Gender sensitive land reforms that provide joint ownership by husband and wife or that enable a woman to hold independent titles; providing public support for out-of-home child care support; simplifying banking procedures and delivering financial services closer to homes, markets and workplace are some of the policy measures the Report proposes.

The State is prone to recurrent natural disasters such as droughts, floods and cyclones that reverse the gains in human development progress. In the last two decade, barring the year1993, the State has witnessed one or the other type of disaster of varying severity. The government has taken a number of initiatives towards disaster mitigation including introduction of early warning systems and implementation of relief programmes to ensure short term food and livelihood security.The five districts with the highest level of human development are Khurda, Jharsuguda, Cuttack, Sundargarh and Angul. On the gender related development index Khurda is replaced by Deogarh in the top five districts. The five districts with lowest level of human development are Malkangiri, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Koraput and Nabarangpur. Except Nabarangpur, all the four districts also have lowest gender related development index