Back home in the KBK districts of Orissa, the head of the household that for decades has worked with my family, fell ill recently. He is in his early 50s. His legs have stopped functioning normally. There have been similar cases before, and some got partially cured when they were taken to a doctor in Raipur, a city some 150 miles away. The family wants to take the patient to the same doctor. But that would cost a lot. They need cash. Urgently. They are considering approaching a local money lender in exchange for a mortgage on their meager ancestral land.
It is not often that you find forest officers sitting face to face with mining officials to discuss environmental sustainability—especially in a state which is rich in both minerals and forest resources. Nor do you often see fishermen walking toe to toe with farmers in sweltering 48° C heat to be heard alongside tribal chiefs and industrialists. And it is not often that a state, dubbed as the disaster capital of India, and which lags behind on every conceivable development indicator, comes out on top by being the first to consult with its people on how to tackle the onslaught of climate change.
Well, this happened last week in India’s coastal state of Orissa, one of the poorest states in the country. While the richer states - Maharashtra and Gujarat - were busy building fancy climate models to predict temperature and rainfall changes fifty years from now, Orissa focused on what it can do today.