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Oriya Language Press: Status, Problems and Prospects

Mrinal Chatterjee
Associate Prof.
Indian Institute of Mass Communication
Dhenkanal 759 001, Orissa

Present status of Media in Orissa


Present status of media in Orissa can be summed up in one sentence, with apology
to Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities): ‘It is the best of the times, it is the
worst of the times’.
Looking from the reach, access and use the mood of media in Orissa is
buoyant. In fact, news media in Orissa never had it so good. Oriya Newspaper
readership is growing at one of the fastest rate in India. Major newspapers of
Orissa are on expansion spree. Almost all the major newspapers are publishing
multiple and muti-location editions. New TV Channels are coming up. Existing ones
like Doordarshan, E-TV (Oriya) and O-TV are beefing up their programmes. Net
penetration, access and use are increasing. Number of web-based publications is
also growing. Media houses are embracing state of the art technology. Convergence
of technology is fuelling diversification in existing media houses. Technology,
increasing literacy and readership, greater competition and aggressive marketing
are transforming the media scene in Orissa from placid monochromatic frame to a
hyperactive, techni-colour one. It is best of the times.
But looking from other angles- financial status of the journalists, their
safety and security, ethics, press freedom- the situation does not look rosy. Many
believe it has deteriorated in comparison to say twenty years before. With media
becoming more capital intensive and market oriented- the diverse voice is finding
it increasingly difficult to survive. News is being commodified. Sensationalism is
rampant. Serious issues are not finding its due space/time. With media ownership
becoming increasingly monopolized, press freedom is in danger- from within.
Journalists are more insecure now. They face double insecurity- insecurity arising
from the intimidation of outside forces irked by his/her report and job
insecurity. More and more journalists are hired on contract now. Scarcity of job
forces many to accept the contract- on the owner’s term. Envelope journalism
(money for news) is rampant. Corruption, many veteran journalists say, has reached
new low. It is the worst of the times.
History of Oriya Journalism:
Journalism as we know it in Orissa today has its genesis first in missionary
activity and later in the reformist and national movement. The Mission Press in
Cuttack, which was set up in 1837 to print the New Testament also brought out the
first Oriya journals Gyanaruna (1849) and Prabodha Chandrika (1856).
The first Oriya newspaper to be printed was the weekly Utkal Dipika by Gouri
Shankar Ray in 1865. Utkal Dipika owed its birth to the upsurge of nationalism
during the late nineteenth century. It played a significant role in sociopolitical
life of Orissa.
A number of newspapers were published in Oriya in the last three and half
decades of the 19th century, prominent among them were Utkal Dipika, Utkal Patra
and Utkal Hiteisini from Cuttack; Utkal Darpan and Sambada Vahika from Balasore,
Sambalpur Hiteisini from Deogarh, etc.
In the early part of twentieth century swadeshi movement in Bengal had
gained momentum and it had great impact on Orissa’s political and social life.
This period was also marked for the spread of journalism in different parts of
Orissa and publication of more papers from Ganjam and Cuttack.
The first Oriya Daily Dainik Asha was published from Berhampur in 1928 by
Sashibhusan Rath. It was a turning point in the history of Oriya journalism. It
demonstrated the power of press in uniting people for a cause- in this case first
unification of the outlying Oriya areas under one administration and then freedom
movement.
Pandit Gopabandhu Das founded Samaja as a weekly in 1919 to support the
cause of freedom struggle of the country. It was made a daily in 1930. Samaja
played an important role in freedom movement in Orissa. So did papers like
Prajatantra.
Post independence Orissa saw expansion in the media both in number of
newspapers and circulation. It also saw an attitudinal change. From being a
mission- it slowly began to turn as a profession. It also became a stepping-stone
for many to enter politics. Politics and literature has had a very close relation
with Oriya journalism. Journalism as a separate, distinct profession with
specialized set of skills began to gain ground very slowly after independence. It
gained momentum only after 80s.
It was in 80s that a change swept through Oriya media. As Robin Jeffrey
wrote1, “Until the 1980s, Oriya newspapers fell starkly into a particular
category: they were put out by people of influence to demonstrate and bolster that
influence.” Unlike the other states Orissa had a press managed by politicians, and
not businessmen. Some newspapers were run at a loss because their proprietors
valued the prestige and leverage within the tiny elite that dominated Orissa
politics from the 1930s. Circulation, technology, advertising and profit were not
the key considerations of owners; status, influence and ‘education’ were.
But in the 1980s, this began to change. Between 1981 and 1991, daily
circulations quadrupled and the proportion of Oriya newspaper readers went from
roughly 7 per 1,000 to 22 per 1,000. By 1992, circulation of Oriya newspapers had
moved from being the lowest of 12 major languages to being eighth, ahead of
Telugu, Kannada, and Punjabi.
Sambad, a daily launched by Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik spearheaded the change.
In fact many scholars2 believe that Oriya newspaper industry came of age with
Sambad. The credit for introducing many firsts in Orissa media industry goes to
Sambad including introduction of photo type setting and offset printing. This was
a turning point in newspaper industry in Orissa from technical as well as content
and layout point of view.
The nineties saw more expansion in the media scene with publication of more
Oriya dailies and consolidation of the established ones. Several major Oriya
dailies also started publishing from more centers in the state, a trend started by
Sambad with their first edition from Berhampur in 1990. Almost all major dailies
started regularly printing in colour. All of them began to publish several
supplements and pull out. Competition for readership began to hot up, which had
definite influence on the look and content of newspapers, also on the marketing
style and strategy.
Present Status of Oriya newspapers:
National Readership Survey (NRS) 2006 has encouraging figures for Oriya
media. The total readership has crossed 1 crore. Three leading papers: Sambad,
Samaja and Dharitri together have close to 55-lakh readerships. Sambad leads the
readership with 20.39 lakh readership followed by Samaja (18.97 lakh) and Dharitri
(14.45 lakh). All the three leading papers have increased their readership in
comparison to last year. Here is comparative data:
2005 2006
Sambad 17.70 20.39
Samaja 17.43 18.97
Dharitri 12.00 14.45
(Source: NRS-2005/v-3.00, NRS- 2006/V-1.00. Readership in lakh)
Number of newspapers and periodicals has increased substantially. At the end
of 1964 there were 70 papers published in Oriya language (four dailies, nine
weeklies, 38 monthlies and 19 other periodicals). By 2004 there were as many as 42
dailies approved by the I &PR Department of Orissa. The list of newspapers, with
its owner and editor’s name and place of publication has been placed at the
Annexure-1. One can see that in Orissa newspapers and periodicals are published
from many places, even from small towns.
Many mainstream newspapers have multiple and multi-location editions from
several places of the state and also from outside the state where there is sizable
Oriya population, and potential for substantial advertisement revenue. List of
Oriya dailies publishing from several places has been given in Annexure-2
Besides the mainstream newspapers, Orissa has a sizable but not necessarily
financially and ethically healthy rural press. Rural press in Orissa is largely
imitating the urban, mainstream media- in terms of content and presentation.
Instead of focusing on the rural population in its content, which ought to and
could have been their strong point most of the rural press are poor copy of the
urban press.
Changes in the last decade
Content and Presentation
There is a noticeable change in the content and presentation in comparison
to say a decade ago. Variety in content has increased many folds. There are
stories, articles, features and analysis on subjects, which used to be thought as
irrelevant to the readers or too specialized. Almost all newspapers now have a
regular sports page (not there in pre-80 era) and a business page (unthinkable in
pre-80 era). While this can be termed as a positive development, there has been
another development, which many consider negative. That is the growth of what is
now called ‘page-3 culture’-an unabashed celebration of personality cult,
promotion of crash consumerism and trivia. To many media pundits it symbolizes
gradual trivialization and tabloidisation of mainstream press leading to dumbing
down the serious issues.
Emphasis on ‘look’
The look and layout of newspapers and periodicals has changed, thanks to
fierce competition necessitating shelf-presence and influence of visual medium.
Oriya newspapers are more visual now. Large photographs, cartoons, illustrations,
computer-generated info-graphics are increasingly being used. The emphasis is on
reader-friendliness. Almost all newspapers are now putting emphasis on the layout
and design. As a result newspapers have become less visually dense, easier to
read, and more alive to the need for good design. Several newspapers have gone for
change of look in recent years. The get up and layout of Dharitri got a face-lift
in 2004 with a new masthead.
Emphasis on use of language of the masses
The language use in newspapers has changed over the last two decades to a
considerable degree. Newspapers and periodicals are now using more colloquial and
crisper language. It is more down-to-earth and close-to-common man now. The
highbrow attitude with use of classical language has gone. In television the
change of language is remarkable. From Doordarshan’s emphasis on chaste classical
Oriya to the O-TV’s use of a mixed language, heavily dotted with English words and
expressions- it has come a long way.
Ownership Pattern
According to Orissa Reference Annual 2004, there are 42 approved (by
Department of I&PR) dailies publishing from Orissa. Out of the 42, Trust/Society
owns five, and seven are owned by limited Companies. Rest 30 is individually
owned. It is interesting to note that all the large newspapers are owned by
Trust/Society and limited Companies.
Two interesting features of Oriya newspapers are ‘proliferation of owner-
publisher-editor entity’ and politicians owning/controlling newspapers. Both have
stood as stumbling blocks on the development of professionalism in Orissa.
Years after Jeffrey observed about the phenomena of politicians controlling
newspapers in Orissa- the situation remains the same. Politicians still own and/or
control most of the large newspapers and media establishments. An indicative list
of newspaper and TV channels and politicians who control them now- directly or
indirectly has been given at Annexure-3
There is nothing wrong in a politician owning and/or editing a newspaper or
controlling a news channel. This is not a unique feature either. Many politicians
have owned and managed newspapers from pre-independence era. In fact almost all
the leading politicians from Mahatma Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru were actively
involved in newspapers. But what is unique in Orissa is the magnitude of it. As
Srimoy Kar, writes,3“This is the reason why the Oriya media industry has failed to
grow at a very basic level, though in terms of size, content, form and marketing
it has undergone a sea change. Till this dichotomy is put to rest, the language
daily will not be able to get rid of its branding and will fail to satisfy the
palates of an increasingly literate and discerning readership. With more and more
national dailies launching their editions in Orissa, the Oriya dailies will have a
tough time maintaining their credibility. Ownership of newspapers must pass on to
less partisan hands for the Oriya dailies to retain their readership.”
Working condition for the Journalists
Journalists world over are underpaid. In India they are generally
poorly paid. In Orissa they are hardly paid. This is one of the reasons, why
journalism as a profession has not grown satisfactorily in Orissa. Journalism has
been and to a large extent still seen as a mission/ passion/ vocation/ or a means
to achieve political clout/ to be a fixer in the power circle/ to get social
status. Somehow journalism as a means of honest earning of one’s livelihood- has
largely eluded Orissa.
There are two reasons for this. One, Oriya media has never been flush with
funds. Second, this mindset suits the media owners, who have devised several ways
to underpay (or not pay at all) the journalists.
The situation is particularly bad for print media. Journalists working in Orissa
for English and other language publications are comparatively better placed- in
terms of wages and perks. Of course there are exceptions and things are improving
in comparison to say pre-80s era. But the general condition remains dismal.
Consider this. A sub-editor/ reporter of a newspaper or TV channel is expected to
be knowledgeable, computer-savvy, besides having good command over Oriya, he/she
should be English language-friendly. And the starting per month salary or wage or
remuneration (in whichever avatar one gets it) in the best of the Oriya newspapers
or TV channels do not exceed Rs 4500/-, one third the amount a bank clerk or a
Junior Lecturer would get at the entry level. In many cases they are paid less
than half of the minimum wage fixed by the government to unskilled labourer. Few
journalists- sub editors and reporters get their wages as fixed by Wage Boards. A
vast majority of the journalist, especially journalists working in rural areas are
not paid at all.
The employers can afford to do this because of several reasons. First, they
get lot of people hankering to work for them as journalists without any payment;
worse some are ready to pay to work as journalists. Their motive obviously is not
pious. But it suits the employers, who do not suffer from ethical problems.
Second, quality of manpower has not yet been regarded in high esteem. Mediocrity
rules. Hence employers are not willing to pay more to get quality manpower. Since
unemployment is rampant, and journalism has not yet acquired the status of a
profession as say like medicine or law, where a particular kind of education is
necessary to practice that particular profession- there is no dearth of supply of
prospective employees.
Third, technology has made it possible to publish newspapers from different places
with less number of persons. The result: shrinking requirement of editorial staff.
Emerging Trends
Multi-edition Newspapers
Multi-edition newspapers are the current trend. Several Oriya newspapers
have multiple editions from different parts of the state, some even from outside
the state. The probable reasons behind this trend are:
a) to disseminate news faster
b) To create a local fervor in the newspaper by publishing more local -
specific material
c) Procuring local advertisements
d) It has become easier and cheaper to publish newspapers from different
locations
e) Fierce competition for circulation has forced many newspapers to go for
multiple editions.
Multi media operation and Cross media ownership
In recent times convergence of media is the watchword. Media owners are
gradually shifting towards multi media operation. Therefore cross media ownership
is becoming a necessity for them. It provides operational and financial benefit to
them. In Orissa the trend of multi-media operation and cross media ownership is
catching up fast. Almost all major newspapers have their web edition. Few though
have dedicated staff. Several newspapers have also ventured into television
production. Like Dharitri started a TV programme on Doordarshan titled ‘Business
Dharitri’. Sambad launched Sambad TV and ventured into cable-distribution. Samaja
TV is in the offing.
Samaja and Prajatantra have their Book publishing ventures. So does Eastern
Media (publisher of Sambad), which also has its Films ventures. It has definite
plans to set up FM radio stations in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Rourkela. In fact,
it has already put advertisements to recruit for its radio stations in late
September 2006. It is also trying to move into mobile sector.
Becoming Tech-savvy
Oriya Press was a late starter so far adopting communication technology is
concerned. It did not get hot metal typecasting until the mid-1970s, 40 years
after it had been introduced for Bengali and by which time the technology was
obsolete.4 Thirty years later, Oriya media is taking to new communication
technology at a lightening speed.
All daily newspapers are now printed in rotary offset. Large newspapers have
modern printing press capable of printing up to 60,000 copies of broadsheet
newspapers per hour. The pre-press work has also been technologically improved.
Image setters are being used in several presses. All newspapers are using
computers and net-savvy devises to get news from their reporters. Fortunately
Orissa has a strong telecom backbone and network, which is being utilized
extensively.
Almost all major newspapers of Orissa have their websites, some have e-paper
version.
Emphasis on marketing
As the competition has become fierce, media owners are pulling all stops and
resorting to all gimmicks to market their ‘product’ and ‘produce’. From putting
up large banners and hoardings on roadside, to putting advertisements on different
media to offering freebies to sponsoring and organizing events to offering
scholarships media owners are doing everything.
They are also associating with events to further their corporate identity.
For example Dharitri organizes Urja, a women’s’ meet.
Some media houses are also into philanthropic works. Samaja has its relief
activities. Samaja also offers scholarships to needy students. Sambad has also
started offering scholarships.
Cost cutting Exercises:
The cover price of newspapers has not been increased much in the last
decade. In fact Samaja reduced its cover price from Rs 1.50 to Rs 1.00 to increase
its circulation. No Oriya newspaper covers even quarter of its production cost
from the sale proceeds. The dependence on advertisement revenue is increasing. So
is pressure to reduce production cost. In order to cut production cost, the daily
newspapers have reduced their size to save on paper cost. The other way of saving
expenditure has been to cut on news gathering/processing expenses. Less people
with lesser pay- this has become the watchword for the management of many
newspapers.
Conclusion
Though a late starter, (the first Oriya newspaper was published eight and a half
decades later than the first newspaper of India) Oriya newspapers have caught up
with other regional language newspapers- so far technology is concerned. But it is
still lagging behind so far content is concerned. Oriya newspapers are still
obsessed with politics. An elitist bias still persists. The language used in most
of the Oriya newspapers is still quasi-classical.
But it is fast catching up with the modern trend in journalism.
The area where it needs improvement is professionalisation. It is still now
mostly family managed business. Financial remuneration to the newspaper-workers
especially the journalists is low.
To quote an Oriya newspaper man, hardwarere ame thik, softwarere pachhei
rahichu. We are at par with others in hardware, but lagging behind in software.
***

Notes and References


1. Retrieved 24 September 2006.
http://www.indianprinterpublisher.com/aug/archive2000/publishing2000/march-
robi.htm
2. Kar Srimoy, Journalism in Orissa. Reference Orissa (Bhubaneswar: Enterprising
Publishers, 2005), pp. 636-637.
Srimoy Kar, Resident Editor of The New Indian Express writes, ‘Oriya
newspaper industry had to wait till the mid-eighties for the launching of the
Sambad by Soumya Ranjan Pattnaik to come of age.
3. Ibid. P-637
4. Jefry Robin, India’s Newspaper Revolution, (New York: Oxford, 2000), pp. 200-
201

Annexure-1
LIST OF APPROVED DAILIES

Sl Name of the Owner’s Name Editor's Name Address of


Publication
No. Newspapers
1. Dharitri Samajbadi Society Tathagat B-26,
Industrial Estate
Satpathy Bhubaneswar-10

2. Samaya Ashirvad Prakashan Shri Satakadi Hota Plot No.44 & 54,
Sector-A
Pvt. Ltd. Zone-D, Maancheswar
Industrial Estate,BBSR-10

3. Samaj Servant of people Dr. Manorama Gopabandhu Bhavan,


Society Mohapatra Buxi Bazar, Cuttack-1.

4. Prajatantra Prajatantra Prachar Smt. Mahasweta


Biharibag,Chandini chowk
Samiti Mahatab Cuttack

5. Pragativadi Pragativadi Samahit Bala 178-B,Mancheswar


Publication Industrial Estate,BBSR-10

6. Sambad Eastern Media Ltd. Soumya Ranjan Patnaik (i) A-62,


Nayapalli
Bhubaneswar-3
(ii)B-28, Industrial Estate
Rourkela
(iii)Tatabenz Square
Berhampur, Ganjam
7. Matrubhasa Matrubhasa Prachar Chandra Shekhar Qr.No.VIB-
1/2,Unit-III
Samiti Mohapatra Bhubaneswar
8. Anupam Bharat Media Anupam Ltd. Shri Sarat Mishra Media Anupam Ltd.
Panchaseel Marg, Berhampur.
9. Orissa Times Shri R. P. Sastri Shri R.P.Sastri Plot No.A-
114,Unit-III
(English) Kharvela Nagar, BBSR.

10. Kholadwar Shri Niranjan Mohanty Shri Niranjan Mohanty Plot No.337,
Baramunda,
Bhubaneswar-3.
11. Utkal Mail Utkal Mail Parakashan Shri Bijay Kumar Mahavir
Printers,C-23/1
Pvt. Ltd., Routray Industrial Estate ,
Rourkela.
12. Sasan Khabar Shri Hrusikesh Mishra Shri Hrusikesh Mishra Plot No.526,
Upper Bhoi
Sahi, Laxmi Sagar,
Bhubaneswar-6.
13. Aaji Kali Shri Bismay Mohanty Shri Bismay Mohanty Nelia Bag,
Balasore-1.
14. Kalinga Bharati Shri Hrusikesh Mishra Shri Hrusikesh Mishra Plot No.526,
Upper Bhoi
(Hindi) Sahi, Laxmi Sagar,
Bhubaneswar-6.
15. Kalinga Mail Shri Sibananda Ray Shri Sibananda Ray Plot No.17,
Rajarani,
Lewis Road, BBSR-2
16. Utkal Samaj Shri Prafulla Ch. Shri Prafulla Ch.
Talamali Sahi, Puri-2.
Mishra Mishr
17. Sambad Kalika Shri Abhaya Ku. Swain Shri Abhaya Ku. Swain 383-Suka Vihar,
BBSR
18. Dhwani Smt. Sairindhri Sahu Smt. Sairindhri Sahu Jail Road,
Balasore
Pratidhwani
19. Bharat Darshan Shri Bijnaranjan Shri Bijnaranjan Lal Building
Road,
Mishra Mishra Sivaji Marg,
Rourkela.
20. Agnisikha Shri Arjuna Ranjan Shri Arjuna Ranjan Gaiety Road,

Panda Panda Sambalpur-1.


21. Krantidhara Gobinda C. Samal Gobinda C. Samal L.B.-57, Stage-IV,
Laxmi Sagar, Brit Colony
Bhubaneswar.

22. Kalantara Rayshree Upendra Rayshree Upendra Kalatantra Villa,


Prasad Nayak Prasad Nayak Balasore

23. Sudhara Shri Parikshita Shri Parikshita Chandini


Market Complex Chandra Das Chandra Das Panposh
Road,Rourkela

24. Indian Era Shri Niranjan Mohanty Shri Niranjan Mohanty Plot No.337,
Baramunda
(English) Bhubaneswar.

25. Durabarta Shri Sarada Mishra Shri Sarada Mishra 1458-New


Forest Park
Bhubaneswar.
26. Mohabharat Kshirabdhiza Nanda Kshirabdhiza Nanda 166-B,
M.E.I. BBSR.

27. Dinalipi Suryo Media Ltd. Smt.Arnapurna Dash A-54/1 &


55/1, Nayapalli
Baramunda, BBSR.

28. Eshwar Smt.Manjulita Nayak Smt.Manjulita Nayak TT-13,Civil


Township
Rourkela-4.

29. Janamukha Shri Birendra Kumar Shri Birendra Kumar Adarsha


Nagar, Hirakud
Panigrahi Panigrahi Colony, Sambalpur.

30. Paryabekhyak Gyan Vikash Trust Shri Rabi Das A-31, M.I.E. BBSR-
10

31. Mukta Mandap Maitri Publication Shri Ashok Mishra Baseli Mandira, Baseli
Sahi, Puri.
32. Utkal Mail Utkal Mail Shri Pitabash Mihra 3R-9/1, Unit-IV,
BBSR

33. Duniya Khabar Shri Hrusikesh Mishra Shri Sasibhusan Padhi Plot No.526, Upper
Bhoi
(English) Sahi, Laxmisagar, BBSR.

34. Nutan Barta Smt. Binapani Mishra Smt. Binapani Mishra Gopala Gaon,
Balasore.

35. Trisakti Rabindra Mishra Rabindra Mishra Plot NoA/87,


Kharvela
Nagar, Bhubaneswar.

36. Dakara Ashok Panda Ashok Panda G. M. College Road,


Sambalpur-1.
37. Nayabati Shri Nalinakshya Rath Shri Nalinakshya Rath At/Po.
Athagarh
Dist. Cuttack

38. Loka Katha Shri Giridhari Patnaik Shri Giridhari Patnaik Rajgangpur,
Sundargarh

39. Dainik Asha Shri Pramod Ku.Panda Shri Pramod Ku.Panda Hillpatna,
Berhampur-5

40. Behura G. Nilamani G. Nilamani Chandabali, Bhadrak


Mohapatra Mohapatra

41.Pratidin Sudhir. Panda Sudhir Ku. Panda TS/193, Zone-B, M.I.E,


Bhubaneswar-10

42. Sakala Hrudananda Mallik Shri Manas Ranjan A/69, Unit-3,


Industrial
Mallik Area, Kharvela Nagar,
Bhubaneswar-1.
Annexure-2

Multi-edition Newspapers

Sambad: Bhubaneswar, Angul, Balasore, Cuttack, Berhampur,


Jeypur, Rourkela and Sambalpur.
Samaja: Cuttack, Sambalpur, Visakhapatna, Kolkata, Rourkela
and Bhubaneswar
Dharitri: Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur, Dhenkanal and Berhampur
Anupam Bharat: Berhampur and Bhubaneswar
Pratidin: Bhubaneswar and Berhampur

Annexure-3

Politicians controlling newspapers, either as owner or /and editor


1. Sambad: Soumya Ranjan Pattanik, Editor. Mr. Pattnaik was MP of Bhubaneswar.
2. Dharitri: Tathagata Satpathy, Editor. Mr. Satpathy is MP, Dhenkanal.
3. Prajatantra: Bhartruhari Mahtab. Mr. Mahtab is MP, Cuttack.
4. Samaya: Ranjib Biswal, Managing Director. Mr. Biswal is MP.
5. O-TV: Baijayant Panda, MP. His wife Jagi mangat Panda runs the outfit.
6. Janavani: R.K.Nayak a former bureaucrat, now a member of Rajya Sabha. An NGO
run by him publishes the paper. He used to edit the paper. Now his wife edits it.
7. India First: Sanjay Hans, editor. Mr. Hans, a well-known businessman contested
for Rajya Sabha unsuccessfully.
8. Sanchar: Dr. Damodar Rout controls this paper. Dr. Rout is powerful BJD leader,
former Panchyati Raj minister.