Orissa barely begins to tap NRO desire to help

Bhubaneswar | Updated: Jan 16 2006, 06:09am hrs
They are small in numbers, but they certainly make an impact on the social-economic scenario of Orissa. Non-resident Oriyas (NROs) have adopted villages, built school buildings, opened hospitals, established research centers and also set up industries back home.

Despite their limitations, the NROs have played a significant role in the development of Orissa, says Sahadeva Sahoo, president of Non-resident Oriya Facilitation Centre (NROFC), a non-governmental organisation working for coordination between NROs and the state government.

A group of Oriya doctors working in the US have set up a super-specialty hospital in Bhubaneswar. The hospital has become a major healthcare centre for the state. Southern Orissa got its first engineering college when Sukanta Mohapatra of Lucent Technologies, USA, decided to put his money to set up a National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) at Berhampur to impart professional education. Similarly, Singapore-based NRO Nitai Gaur Dhall roped in some of his friends to set up Silicon Institute of Technology at Bhubaneswar. Both NIST and Silicon Institute have created a benchmark in quality education.

San Diego-based NRO Sujaya Singh, who hails from Balasore, has set up a biotechnology unit at Bhubaneswar with an investment of Rs 5 crore. His unit, Imgenex, inaugurated by President Abdul Kalam last month, is engaged in biotech and stem cell research. Future Garment Ltd., UK, has set up a cotton and spinning mill with an investment of Rs 1 million and AD Holding, Mauritius, has set up Lingaraj Pipes for manufacturing of plastics and rubber products, with an investment of Rs 2.1 m.

During the 1999 super-cyclone, NROs rushed relief material to the ravaged districts. The Oriya Society of America (OSA) adopted a village for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The majority of Oriyas settled abroad are in teaching. So they are not as resourceful as their counterparts from Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka. However, says Santosh Mishra, a biotech expert based in Singapore, now sharing his knowledge for development of biotech here, NROs are eager to share their knowledge and resources for the development of Orissa. The state government should take advantage of this sentiment, says Suvendu Mohapatra, a Singapore-based hardware technologist.

The government has set up a NRO Cell in the general administration department for co-ordination of the investments of Oriyas settled abroad. The Cell, in collaboration with NROFC, organises a Prabasi Utkala Divas every December. To encourage NROs, the Ruchi Masala group, an Orissa-based industrial house, has said it will confer a Prabasi Prativa Samman to NROs who contribute to the states welfare and development.