Nagada Village: Four Years After Media Exploration

There are thousands of villages like Nagada and Guhiasal in India. Small villages face similar challenges of development. Based on the case study of Nagada and Guhiasal villages of Odisha, we can make some inferences for small villages. The road to economic development requires basic infrastructure, like all-weather roads and physical access to health, education and market.

Nagada cover 2

In July 2016, Nagada village of Jajapur district, Odisha drew the attention of local and national media due to the death of 19 children from malnutrition. The revenue village had three hamlets located within a two-kilometre distance from one another – Upar Nagada, Tala Nagada and Majhi Nagada. The hamlets located on the hills were virtually disconnected from the mainland since there was no formal road to this village. All basic facilities such as road, electricity, drinking water, mobile phone network, health facilities were far from reach to the people of Nagada. As per the Census 2011, a total of 55 households lived in these three hamlets. The current number is 60 households. These all-tribal hamlets with a population of 307, had just one literate person. All households belong to the Juanga tribe which is enlisted as one of the thirteen Particularly Vulnerable Groups (PVTG) of Odisha. Odisha has the highest number of tribal communities (62) living in different parts of the state.

Nagada forest hamlets before 2016 without a road

After the wide media coverage of the malnutrition deaths, the Chief Minister of Odisha, Mr Naveen Pattanaik, constituted a Task Force consisting of several senior bureaucrats from various departments to look after the developmental works. Several measures, such as the construction of road, provision of drinking water, construction of school and Anganwadi buildings, connecting electricity, etc. were taken up on a war footing.

In November 2020, we visited the Nagada village and a nearby tribal village, Guhiasal to take stock of the situation. Most of the households have now got a pucca house under the Biju Pucca Housing Scheme. The village has drinking water facilities through multiple tubewells and public taps. Two Anganwadi centres have been opened – one at Upar Nagada and another one at Tala Nagada, and a primary school has been established near Majhi Nagada in 2016. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the school was closed; so, we collected the contact numbers of the teachers appointed in Nagada and interacted with them over the phone.

At present, two tribal teachers (one from the Santal and the other from the Sabar community) from the same (Chingudipal) Panchayat are appointed. A total number of 51 students are enrolled in classes I to V – five in class I, seven in class II, fourteen in class III, seven in class IV and eighteen in class V. After class V, students need to go to Chingudipal Ashram school which is about 18 km from the Nagada village for classes VII and VII and then, to the Chingudipal High School for classes VIII, IX and X. As per the information gathered from a teacher of the Nagada school, around 30 students have enrolled in the Ashram school. No one has completed class X education. Very recently, a few students from Majhi Nagada and Tala Nagada have joined the KISS residential school in Bhubaneswar for primary schooling. A new Ashram school is under construction at Deogaon village which is about seven kilometres from Nagada village. We interacted with the school teacher of the nearest school at Deogaon to know the education situation of the children of Nagada before 2016. The teacher admitted that officially, all children of Nagada village were enrolled, but no one came to attend school.

Roads to Upar Nagada, Majhi Nagada and Tala Nagada Villages. The newly built Primary School is also seen.

Table 1. Demographic and education profile of Nagada and Guhiasal villages of Chingudipal Panchayat, Sukinda Block, Jajapur District, Odisha

Number of households5532
Total population307155
Total male population14980
Total female population15875
Population below 6 years9529
Male population below 6 years4817
Female population below 6 years4712
ST population307134
ST males14969
ST females15865
Literate population12
Literate male12
Literate female00

Source: Census 2011

The nearest government-run medical facility, a Community Health Centre, is at the Sukinda block headquarters, which is nearly 50 km away from the Nagada village. During our interaction with the Sarpanch of Chingudipal, Mr Nilendra Pradhan, who has been elected for the fourth consecutive term, we came to know that there was no all-weather road after Chingudipal. People from Nagada used to walk about 18 km on the hilly, forest footpath to access the nearest market. Due to government intervention, now the road work is going on. However, the road work is not yet complete even after five years. The telephone network is hard to avail of in this village even in 2021. The district administration ran buses to Nagada village for several months then, stopped it. However, we noticed auto-rickshaws plying on the road to Nagada.

Nagada is a revenue village with its latest survey and settlement last carried out in the 1980s. As per the record of rights, out of a total of 761.45 acres of the geographical area, only 19.38 acres of land has been designated as private land whereas 618.6 acres have been classified as forestland. All households depend on the forest for their livelihood. Households used to collect a number of tubers, mushrooms, greens, honey, fruits, and a variety of non-timber forest products, mostly for their own consumption. Households graze domestic animals in the forest. Similarly, most of the households used to do shifting cultivation in the forest land and would grow a variety of millets, vegetables and paddy.

The forest beat at Naliadaba is just two km away from Nagada. Due to better road connectivity, forest officials are visiting the Nagda village very frequently. This has restricted the population’s unlimited access to the forest. A few households have received land records under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) for the homestead land and some amount of cultivable land. As per the FRA, the families living in Nagada are entitled to get 8 – 10 acres of forestland for cultivation (Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan, Odisha, 20171). Many households are yet to receive land records for cultivable land. They are getting free rice from the public distribution system. Due to limited access to forest land, households are not able to grow traditional crops. This has aggravated their nutritional insecurity. Although households keep cows, goats and hens, they do not drink milk. They sell the livestock for some cash during financial emergencies.

We also visited Guhiasal village which is about five km away from Nagada village. Around 40 households from Juanga tribes are living in two hamlets namely Upar Guhiasal and Tal Guhiasal. There is no all-weather road to both hamlets of Guhiasal. We had to walk about three km on the forest path to reach the village. One needs to walk another three km to reach Tala Guhiasal. On the way, we could see the drinking water pipe connection which was done a few years ago when the Nagada village was in the limelight. Similarly, the construction of an overhead water tank has stopped halfway. Although electricity connection has been provided, most of the time there is no electricity. People use solar lights. Unlike the Nagada village, no one in Guhiasal village has received any assistance for pucca housing. During the interaction with an NGO official and the Sarpanch, we came to know that since the households do not have land records, they are not able to get the housing scheme benefits. The official process to get land records as per FRA is on. Similarly, forest clearance is obstructing the road work to the village. A makeshift arrangement has been made for the Anganwadi centre and primary school. On the day of our visit, we found the wife of the appointed teacher in the village doing his work of teaching. She informed us that the teacher had gone to attend a training. Households fetch drinking water from a stream. Although Nagada and Guhiasal villages had similar conditions before 2016, Nagada has got most of the facilities because of the media attention. During the same time, some work was also taken up for Guhiasal but with less earnestness.

There are thousands of villages like Nagada and Guhiasal in India. Such small villages face similar challenges of development. Based on the case study of Nagada and Guhiasal villages of Odisha, we can make some inferences for small villages. The road to economic development requires basic infrastructure like all-weather roads and physical access to health, education and market. Therefore, the government should, on a priority, connect all small hamlets with all-weather roads and provide easy access to education and health. It is important to know the location of the small hamlets/​villages. Small villages located near markets do not face developmental problems. However, those that are far from the markets face several barriers to development. Tribal villages inside the forests face multiple barriers. Many households do not have land records of their homestead land and cultivable land. This prohibits the flow of government benefits and other benefits from the market. Therefore, the priority should be to provide land records to all households under the FRA. When it comes to the provision of public goods and services to small villages, the unit cost of these, such as roads, drinking water becomes extremely high. Moreover, smaller villages have less bargaining power as compared to the big villages in getting a share of government-funded public goods. In order to address these issues, tribal hamlets of the same tribes may be relocated to one place where a minimum of a hundred households can reside. The location can be one of their current villages.

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    Village Upar Nagada

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    The temporary Anganwadi Centre at Upar Nagada built in 2016 where the officials used to camp to monitor the situation

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    The new Anganwadi Centre at Upar Nagada built with financial grants from District Mineral Funds

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    Anganwadi centre at Tala Nagada

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    Primary School at Majhi Nagada built in 2016

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    Numbers written in Odiya script, symbols and Juanga language inside the school built by TATA

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    Dr. Amarendra Das in Majhi Nagada

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    Dr. Amarendra Das in Upar Nagada

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    Dr. Amarendra Das in Tala Nagada

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    Location address of Nagada village written inside a classroom

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    Odiya alphabets A and AA written in Juanga language on the school wall

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    Wall painting inside the classroom in Tala Nagada. Showing the traditional Changu dance of Juanga tribe

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    Names of the beneficiaries of the Biju Pucca (mining) Housing Scheme displayed at Tala Nagada Village


Amarendra Das, Reader‑F, National Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhubaneswar; Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai.