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Built on delta of two mighty rivers, trade, culture once flourished in ancient Cuttack

By Sudhansu R Das 

Trade and culture once flourished in the ancient city Cuttack. Built on the delta of the two mighty rivers, the Mahanadi and the Kathajodi, the city has vast economic potential to create inclusive employment opportunities. Cuttack was a river port from where huge Boitas (traditional ships) sailed off to the Indian Ocean nations.
The skilled artisans of Cuttack used to make silver filigree, horn craft, ivory craft, wood craft, clay idols and gold ornaments etc for export. Today the city has fallen from grace; the artisans have lost their skill and artistry; a large number of educated youth leave the city for jobs outside; the business has shrunk due to lack of demand; online marketing of products by big investors adversely affects the sale of small shops. All these factors contribute to growing unemployment and poverty in the city.
In order to reweave the city’s economic fabric the government should improve its road condition. The city roads erode people’s hard earned surplus. Except the ring road and a few kilometer roads around Barabati stadium, the rest of the roads crisscrossing the core city areas, give nightmares to local residents. 
People meet accidents while avoiding potholes, broken humps and multiple cuts on the roads. People spend money on repairing their limbs as well as the vehicle parts. Road contractors dig the roads a number of times in a year as the authority has no long term road plan nor do they have any control over them. New concrete roads peel out after heavy rain and are dug for drainage work and for laying cables.
The government should complete the long pending drainage system, make a long term road development plan and impose fines on communities if they dig or spoil roads. The government instead of wasting money on widening and decorating a few roads should improve the basic road facility in the city.
The pedestrian path on main city road passing through Railway station, Ravenshaw college, Mangalabagh, Buxi Bazaar, Choudhury Bazaar, Nayasarak and High Court has disappeared; the number of fatal accidents in the city has increased many fold not due to nonuse of helmet but due to bad roads and rash driving.
The roads which pass through Marwaripati, Choudhury Bazar, Banka Bazar, Kesarpur, Binod Bihari, Khatbin Sahi and Sutahat etc need to be freed from encroachment. Many residents in Jaunlapati, Marwari pati and Nayasarak, Choudhury bazar and Nimchaudi etc have extended their shop to roads which cause traffic jams.
Adequate parking space or open space should be provided to people so that they could avoid parking vehicles on roads. People deserve parking space since they pay huge road tax. The ring road which is built alongside the 11th century stone embankment should be maintained well and a dedicated cycle track should be made in the city; a cycle track will reduce the pressure of automobiles on roads, save fuel, improve people’s health and air quality.
Infrastructure development creates an irreparable mess if it lacks quality and a sense of purpose. Fifty years back the bitumen top roads in the city were far better than the roads existing now. In many places the bitumen top roads were replaced by poor quality concrete roads which show cracks and get eroded after sometime.
The city needs special drive to tame the delinquent motor cyclists who drive fast and cause accidents; they escape without punishment. Good and safe roads will save people’s hard earned money, boost tourism, increase productivity and will attract private investment etc.
The absence of a drainage system, the open drains and people’s littering habits have converted a large part of the city into a hell. Thousands of people in the city use open drains as urinals. Loss of employment in rural areas let people migrate to Cuttack for menial jobs. The unprecedented rise in floating population has put pressure on the city’s infrastructures. Open drains breed mosquitoes, cause fatal accidents and spread diseases which erode people’s surplus income.
The open space and the water bodies in the city are shrinking at an alarming pace. Lack of open space deprives children of physical activities which adversely affect their physical and mental growth. The aggressive behavior among children is growing. The city’s youth suffer from several ailments due to lack of playgrounds and sports facilities in the city. More community playgrounds and parks should be developed inside the cities. The water bodies in the city should be revived within a time frame as those water bodies absorb rain water and save the city from rain flood.
Concrete structures should not overshadow the natural infrastructures in the city. Infrastructure development has no meaning if people do not have facilities to maintain good health at an affordable cost. There are enough of concrete structures in the city. The government should identify the open space inside the city’s core area and develop those places into community playgrounds and parks.
There are many heritage sites in the city which can generate employment. The exquisite Queen’s Pond, the massive pillars and mandaps of the ancient Purushotam temple, the remnants of the historic Barabati fort and all heritage sites which belong to the period between 10th and 15 th century AD should be preserved and efforts should be made to remove the encroachment from the fort area.
Barabati fort is the richest social capital of the state which can give a sense of pride to the Oriyas. The 11th century stone embankment which protects the city from the fury of flood, the birth place of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, the Banyan tree which flogged hundreds of freedom fighters to deaths during the British rule, the ancient Raghunathjew temple, the Chandi Mandir and the Dantan Saheb Gurudwar etc. are some of the potential tourist attraction which should be maintained well to attract tourists and pilgrims.
All these places should be freed from new construction activities as the ugly concrete structures block the priceless heritage and blur the prospect of tourism. Unfortunately, garbage piles up in the surroundings of many ancient temples in the city. Garbage gathers at the north entrance of the ancient Raghunathjew temple; it rots to create a very unhygienic atmosphere. The leftover part of the temple’s Prasad is poured in the municipality drain.
The Culture Department and the Endowment Commissioner should personally inspect the condition of the temples periodically and try to improve the cleanliness for tourism development. Nothing can improve if the officials don’t come out of the cozy office environment. An independent supervising agency should monitor the performance of the erring officials. The city’s media should break its slumber and work to improve the environment around the heritage sites. The opportunity for tourism development should not be messed up.
Today there is no trace of the river port on the bank of the river Mahanadi. The famous Barabati fort in the city has been encroached in many places. The moat surrounding the fort is filled with water plants; the traces of history and heritage are being obliterated due to neglect and mindless construction activities. There has been a long delay in cleaning the mote which adversely affects tourism potential. The mote should be cleaned within a time frame; a water sports facility can be developed in the mote.
Cuttack city is famous for its folk art and music. One will come across the Bhajan Mandalis (the devotional song groups) of different Sahis who play different types of music and sing folk songs during festivals; they fill the city with life and vibrancy. The city artisans make wonderful handicraft objects like silver filigree, horn craft, clay work, wood craft and gold ornaments etc. The native Cuttakites have the skill to prepare mouth watering eatables like Dahibara-Aludom, Chenapoda, Chenagaja, Thunkapuri, Aloochop and a variety of chats.
The government should allocate a proper marketplace to` the artisans and local eatable makers to run their business. Positive political energy, honesty, integrity and a clear vision can generate employment for the Cuttakites.

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