There are very few districts in India that can match the financial muscle of Keonjhar in Odisha. Yet, the district suffers the ignominy of having the highest number of stunted, underweight children and anaemic pregnant women among the 30 districts in the State.
The irony is that the Keonjhar district is financially healthy. It has a ₹15,000 crore separate fund in its kitty, apart from the government’s regular welfare funds.
But it fares poorly compared to other districts in the State when it comes to health indices. Of the total 13.48 lakh families with stunted, wasted or underweight children and anaemic pregnant women in Odisha, 98,918 such families are from Keonjhar.
According to the National Family Health Survey-5, 25.9% of women in Keonjhar have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below normal as against the State average of 20.8%. Similarly, 74.7% of pregnant women in Keonjhar were reported anaemic as against the State average of 61.8%.
Mohan Majhi, Keonjhar MLA and the BJP’s Chief Whip in the Assembly said “According to the Odisha government, there are 5,525 villages which cannot be easily accessed in the State. Keonjhar has 141 villages. Keonjhar accounts for 26% of the iron ore reserve of the country and it has ₹8,583 crores lying with the District Mineral Foundation. The corrupt administrations at the district and State levels are chasing misplaced priorities while Keonjhar’s children are malnourished and becoming victims of diseases.”
Keonjhar has close to ₹7,000 crores under the Odisha Mineral Bearing Areas Development Corporation (OMBADC) for the welfare of the population affected by mining activities.
“It is an irony that the poorest of the society suffer in the rich Keonjhar district. Despite Keonjhar making a huge contribution to the State exchequer, poor families, especially tribals, have been languishing without access to basic amenities. We should be ashamed of losing our children while we sit on piles of cash,” rued Himanshu Kumar, secretary of the Keonjhar Citizens’ Forum.
This article was first published at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/odishas-rich-keonjhar-poor-in-child-health/article65931185.ece