The juvenile Cuttack – A microcosm of India, Cuttack is a mystery, a paradox, a history and even the future. Never say die attitude of the people makes it very juvenile, often mischievous but always spirited. Very independent, it has its own language, an infectious self-pride and an undercurrent of melancholy for being the erstwhile lords of power and culture. The reins of the Kingdom have gone across the river. But the bustle in trading is still thrifty, rising. There is a warm legacy in everything. I have learnt secularism from Cuttack – all encompassing, large hearted oneness.
Never one to be relegated to history, this juvenile commune is now tipped to be one of the emerging future cities of India in the next decade. Taking into account the demographic and economic evolution, McKinsey & Company in a recent report (released last week), says that Cuttack would join forces with cities like Jamnagar, Dehradun, Bhavnagar, Kolhapur, Vellore, Amaravati, Ajmer, Udaipur, Sangli, Nanded and Mangalore in contributing about half of India’s incremental GDP from 2012 to 2025 and for 50% of its total income in the last year, i.e. 2025. In short, focusing on these 79 districts would provide companies with access to a below-optimally tapped market potential similar to the one offered by the eight high-performing states. It is not about a report from a global consulting major which has brought our attention back to Cuttack. Rather it is the “throbbing” city, sometimes hit by slow paced complacency, which has not lost any of its chutzpah.
In the coming months and years, for the period upto 2025 at least, investements would identify the key economic and business growth hotspots in India and Cuttack can again emerge as the poster boy of Odisha or Eastern India. More importantly I see Cuttack as a metropolitan cluster which still retains or promises even higher economic potential because it offers a contiguous cluster with it being the nucleus. The entire Kalinganagar industrial hub, the Paradeep industrial hub, the high yield agriculture producing areas like Banki,Kandarpur,Athgarh, Mahanga are all attached to Cuttack for decades,for all whole selling, trading and transactions. So Cuttack represents a serviceable market, and extends even beyond the district or the HQ. Similar clusters are expected to account for about 77 per cent of incremental GDP by 2025. And the cities, as identified by the report, with a population of over one million and their hinterlands are expected to usher in more than half of India’s incremental GDP growth by 2025. Cuttack joins the select group of the 49 metropolitan clusters which are the growth drivers for the country’s economy in the coming decade. These clusters represent almost 75% of India’s future income pool.
More and more product and service providers would now be interested in diving deeper for granular understanding of the market potentialities and would hone their strategies accordingly. This in turn means that in the coming 5-10 years Cuttack would witness flurry of activities in investments, services, market opportunities. And this where I would like to believe that a much more strategic approach by the public and the private players would strengthen Cuttack’s case. Youth skilling, ramping up infrastructure, assuring sanctity in law and order could be some of the top priorities. I foresee a sudden spurt in consumer oriented industries such as cosmetics, sanitary ware, building products, apparel, telecom and financial services. Adequate opportunities for local employments would emerge. But are we ready with a pool of skilled youths? There are many vocation training programs underway in Cuttack and Khurda (nearby districts) but do they have an assessment-based approach to r!
eady themselves with industry relevant curriculum and large number of students. Mobilisation of Youths for such vocational training programs is a big challenge. A lot of social mobilization and market-oriented sensitization needs to be done at the community levels. Out of approximately 22,000 NGOs registered in Cuttack district alone, how many work in the futuristic areas of Youth preparedness? If we miss the bus now, it would be difficult to revive the spirits of youths, post 2025 because after a decade from now, other cities, clusters, areas of India would burst ahead. All of us are vying for the same space.
There are many areas requiring attention but I think improvement of the Transport Network system for faster communication and high standard linkages between the Cuttack and it’s rural hinterlands, water management including flood water and better urban slum management in the entire Cuttack region would be crucial to prepare the grounds for a high velocity growth in the not-so-far future. IIT, Kharagpur’s plan has been well received and JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) supported project is underway in Cuttack. This project aims at construction of separate drainage and sewerage systems in the city with the help of technical knowhow from the US, Japan and France. The project is expected to be completed by December 2014, but there is already a delay in progress. The Estimates Committee of Odisha Assembly has expressed displeasure over the delay and has directed the district administration and the local civic authorities to oversee the project and report to the c!
ommittee about any impediments in completion of the project. In a welcome move, a private company has entered into an agreement with the state government to maintain the JICA project for seven years soon after its completion. Cuttack is located on the holms of Mahanadi River and Kathajodi River and drainage facilities are inadequate, low-lying areas in the city are flooded during the rainy season and even under normal conditions. The installation of sewerage facilities are grossly outdated, inadequate and are practically defunct. The objective of this JICA project is to provide reliable sewerage service and improve drainage service by carrying out construction of sewerage and drainage facilities in the city of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. This would improve the hygiene and living conditions of local residents including the poor and contribute more than incrementally in the state GDP. Now with massive national campaigns like Swach Bharat and others, the Social development and pu!
blic awareness: Construction of public toilets, slum sanitatio!
n improvement, public awareness activities should be scaled up. Odisha’s strength is it’s large number of NGOs working in the state. Under a PPP mode, the NGOs could be entrusted with the awareness, training and capacity building components to build a much stronger and unanimous buy-in for the initiatives.
I am romantically linked with Cuttack, its flavor, its lust, its energy, its fabric but I also need to be ruled by head. We all want Cuttack to maintain its ego and lead. But let it also be development-savvy. Otherwise a few more generations and the romance of Dahibara aludam, Barabati, Biriyani, would wane.
I cannot see my beloved fritter away and age. It has to be eternal beauty transcending changing times….
FIDR (Non-profit think tank)