ONE FOR ALL
If there is one message that Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal boss Naveen Patnaik has been tirelessly driving home to the ministers and government officials of his administration over the past couple of months, it is the absolute importance of treating the public in a respectable, ethical and professional manner.
He did that most recently on January 17 this year while addressing a senior officers' conference at Lok Seva Bhawan in Bhubaneswar. On the occasion Naveen administered an oath to everyone present there as he urged senior government officers to be “the drivers of the transformation agenda”.
"People are the soul of democracy. Every institution in a democracy is for the people created by their money to empower and serve them,” the five-time Chief Minister stated.
"I have a family of four and a half crore people of Odisha. With their blessings, I am serving them for the last 20 years. I want our children to have a quality education, our brothers and sisters to have good jobs and our elders to have good health care facilities," he said before asking all senior officers to share their transformation-oriented ideas and suggestions with him.
With every passing year, Naveen seems increasingly committed to the cause of overall development for Odisha in a manner that can benefit all sections and strata of its people. The latter half of last month itself is a microcosm of that approach.
Just two days before Naveen chaired that senior officers' conference, he announced a special package for migrant workers in four migration-prone districts of the state to help them earn a better livelihood.
The special package was for a total of 20 vulnerable blocks in Bargarh, Balangir, Nuapada and Kalahandi. After being provided jobs for 200 days in a year under the MGNREGA scheme, the workers will get Rs 286.30 as daily wage instead of Rs 188 per day earlier, according to a statement from the CM’s office.
A state-level corpus fund of Rs 500 crore was constituted to ensure that the labourers received their wages timely and all gram panchayats (GPs) under these 20 blocks of the four districts would be covered as intensive GPs under the Odisha Livelihoods Mission, the statement said.
In addition, all families of the four districts would be brought under Self Help Groups (SHGs) and pucca houses would be provided to eligible families in the four districts. The government would also undertake a drive to register all eligible construction workers with the Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, with which they will be given marriage assistance, pension, education assistance and other admissible benefits.
The main objective of the project, the statement added, was to ensure livelihood, employment-linked skill development and asset creation for migrant workers in order to mitigate distress migration.
The Chief Minister had more good news in store for people in Bargarh district: He announced that a cancer hospital would be set up there soon. This was in addition to the new six-storey building of Bargarh district headquarters hospital that he inaugurated during his tour to the western part of Odisha. With a bed capacity of 300, the new facility was built at a cost of Rs 45 crore.
The biggest news for the state on the healthcare front came a few days later, when the Chief Minister announced that the development work of SCB Medical College will start in March this year.
"Work on SCB Medical College will begin by March and the Ring Road in Cuttack will be a six-lane road," said Naveen after reviewing several projects for the city on January 23 this year.
Late last year, the state government had announced a Rs 1,000 crore package to transform state-run SCB Medical College and Hospital into an "AIIMS Plus" institute in Odisha.
During his recent visit, the Chief Minister said that 424 acres reclaimed from the Mahanadi river would be utilised to add ecological, recreational, sporting, cultural, aspirational, technological value to the life of the people in Cuttack.
"The reclamation of land from our lifeline Mahanadi has created once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to breathe fresh life into the core of our ancient city," he said.
Assuring that it would be the state government's endeavour to prepare a decongestion plan for Cuttack to enable the millennium city to have wider roads, improved accessibility and modern urban infrastructure, among other things, the Chief Minister said most of the reclaimed area would have greenery and open spaces with the rest of the land to be used for development purposes, surrounded by a world-class riverfront.
"In this transformative process, we will engage the best-in-class city planners and also take feedback from the people so that they actively contribute to make it a Citizen's Plan," he added.
Meanwhile, Naveen has been making concerted efforts to make Odisha better connected with the rest of the world.
As a result, 14 new flights have been planned to connect Bhubaneswar with several national and international destinations, most of which are scheduled to operate between January to the summer of this year.
According to sources, the planned destinations are Kolkata-Jharsuguda, Bhubaneswar-Varanasi, Varanasi-Bhubaneswar, Jharsuguda-Mumbai, Prayagraj-Bhubaneswar, Delhi-Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, Bhubaneswar-Kalaikunda, Bhubaneswar-Bangkok, Bangkok- Bhubaneswar, Singapore-Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar-Abu Dhabi.
On January 22 this year, the Odisha government held a meeting for that purpose with airline operators and officials of the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, which was attended by CEOs of many airlines.
In the meeting, Naveen cited the growth story of Odisha, the presence of techno-savvy diaspora in different countries, the emergence of a globe-trotting middle class, growth of tourism and rapid growth in various sectoral economies.
Introduction of more international flights from Bhubaneswar to destinations like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and Bangkok will provide convenience and comfort to the people of the state, he said.
"I take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Civil Aviation for increased connectivity to Odisha. I further request the ministry to introduce new connectivity from Odisha to domestic destinations like Pune, Jaipur, Lucknow, Chennai, Vizag, Kochi and Ranchi.
"Similar is the demand for potential international hubs like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Colombo. I assure that the state government will provide necessary support," the Chief Minister said.
Two days later, Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel declared that the Sun Temple at Odisha's Konark will soon be included in the list of iconic tourist sites.
"The people of Odisha will soon receive the good news about Konark being included in the list of iconic sites. We will organise a special event to announce the inclusion very soon," he said while addressing at the concluding ceremony of two-day long National Tourism Conference in Konark.
This was possible thanks in no small part to the Naveen Patnaik administration’s push to include at least two tourist places of importance from the state in the list of iconic tourist sites to be developed by the Centre.
No development can be sustainable without public safety, and Naveen’s commitment to making Odisha an increasingly safer place was once again evident late last month with the launch of a virtual police station that can facilitate online registration of FIR in unknown motor vehicle theft cases.
The Chief Minister also launched medico-legal opinion system and road accident case document module at Lok Seva Bhawan, which is aimed at reducing human interface with government offices.
Stating the government is committed to providing citizen-centric governance under the 5T programme, Naveen said such initiatives will effectively reduce the necessity of citizens to visit police stations.
The virtual police station, an online mechanism established at the State Crime Records Bureau in Bhubaneswar, will much benefit citizens for claiming insurance in motor vehicle theft cases, according to an official.
While the road accident case documents module is a web-based application that will help insurance companies or the victims in downloading the required documents like FIR, final form, spot map, MVI report and post mortem report, the medico legal opinion system is a web-based system that will assist both police and medical professionals, the official explained.
Under it, the police can submit requisitions online for medical examination of victims. Besides, the doctors will upload their medical examination reports online which will be downloaded by the police for necessary action, the official added.
The five-time Chief Minister has also been extra careful in ensuring that no person or community gets discriminated against on the basis of their religion or ancestry.
Therefore, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) officially declared that the column that seeks details on the birthplace of parents of an individual during the enumeration of the National Population Register (NPR) will be deleted in the state.
"The BJD supports CAA, but is not in favour of NRC as the Chief Minister has already made it clear. We object to Column 13(2) of NPR form which seeks information on the place of birth of an individual's parents. As the Centre has clarified that it is optional, the norm will not be implemented in Odisha," BJD MP Pinaki Mishra told media persons in Bhubaneswar.
The decision to delete column 13(2) in the NPR format was taken at the BJD Parliamentary Party meeting presided over by Naveen himself.
On behalf of his party, Mishra said they will press for enumeration of Other Backward Classes (OBC) during the Census so that the exact number of OBCs in the country can be known. OBCs are a very important constituent who have been left out and it was unfortunate that they have not been enumerated, he pointed out.
No wonder then, as many political observers have been noting, the Naveen Patnaik government is functioning well enough to teach the rest of the country lessons in good governance and inclusive growth.