RIGHT ON THE BALL
From helping Odisha get its due pride of place in national history, to unrelentingly pushing it towards a brighter future, the Naveen Patnaik government is working wonders for the state
A few days ago President Ram Nath Kovind spoke rather positively about Odisha’s past, present and future during his two-day visit to the state. After laying down the foundation stone for the Paika Rebellion Memorial at Barunei Hill in Khordha, not far from the outskirts of the sprawling state capital of Bhubaneswar, he expressed optimism that the memorial would stand as a proud reminder of the way the peasant militias of the Gajapati rulers organised the nation’s first armed rebellion against the oppression of colonial Britain’s East India Company.
"The memorial, after getting established, will play a major role in making youths and tourists aware about the legends of paikas. I thank Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan for their efforts towards establishment of the memorial,” President Kovind stated as he recalled the sacrifices of Buxi Jagabandhu (who led the Paika rebellion) and Jai Rajguru, legendary figures from Odisha in India’s freedom struggle story.
Noting that Odisha is blessed with abundant natural resources, the President also announced that the Centre is making huge investment for infrastructure development in the state as part of its plan to step up the pace of development in eastern India.
However, many political and economic experts reckon, the Naveen Patnaik government has already been driving fast-track development in Odisha for quite a while.
At the end of last month, the Chief Minister launched 27 industrial projects, worth a total of Rs 8938.81 crore, five of which were inaugurated and the rest were for ground breaking. The projects will generate well over 12,000 jobs.
While launching the projects at a special function through videoconferencing in Bhubaneswar on November 30, the Chief Minister shared his government’s target of making Odisha one of the top three investment destinations in the country.
Hailing the emergence of Odisha as the most attractive state in India for investments during the April-September period this year as it received 18 percent investment of the entire nation, Naveen cautioned: “Our focus should be on quick grounding of these industrial projects."
However, the Chief Minister expressed satisfaction over the success of the 5T model of governance – of achieving transformation at all levels through teamwork, transparency and technology enablers in a time-bound manner.
“The strategy of the state government is already witnessing encouraging results towards industrial development of the state," Naveen noted as he announced the dates for the 2020 edition of Make in Odisha Conclave.
And the target he set for that event was more ambitious than ever before. “Let's all work together to make it the greatest investment summit ever organised by any state in the country. I invite the global business community to join us at the summit from November 30 to December 4, 2020," he added.
Three days later, the Odisha government had some good news for the education sector.
On December 3, the Chief Minister launched an e-learning mobile phone app, called ‘Madhu’, designed to help school students understand their subjects in a more efficient way.
Named after 'Utkal Gourab' Madhusudan Das, the app will offer interesting video explanations of lessons they are taught in the classroom, along with interactive question-answer sessions.
The next day, Mission Suvidya was launched to ensure facilities such as safe building, functional toilets, safe drinking water, proper kitchen and dining in the 6,500 ST-SC Development Department hostels across the state that house more than 5.7 lakh students.
The ST-SC Development Department on December 4 signed three agreements (MoUs) – first with Quality Council of India (QCI), second with Akshara Foundation and the third with Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) – as part of steps towards fulfilling the objective of the mission.
According to a statement from the Chief Ministers' Office (CMO), the QCI will comprehensively assess and evaluate ST-SC hostels and then help them meet the necessary quality standards to get the ISO 9001: 2015 certification.
The MoU with Akshara Foundation will see it work together with the Department to improve learning outcomes for the students. Various programmes such as school readiness programme for Grade-I students, classroom/hostel library programme, digital learning solutions and others will be implemented towards that objective, the CMO statement said, adding that these programmes will cover all schools with primary sections under purview of the department in a phased manner benefitting more than two lakh students in the first phase.
And the one with TRIFED is aimed at ensuring market access and exposure for the various products of by tribal artisans and entrepreneurs.
"I am very happy to launch Mission Suvidya that aims at bringing a qualitative shift in accommodation facilities provided to students in ST-SC hostels," the Chief Minister stated.
"Mission Suvidya will provide a congenial atmosphere to all the inmates in a phased manner. It will guarantee quality services in safety and security, health, hygiene, and food provisions for the students. I believe these complementary provisions will enable the students to focus better on their studies," he said, adding that the recent signing of the MoUs were “very encouraging” developments.
Three days later, in a direct and immediate response to the feedback received from patients and doctors under the Mo Sarkar initiative, the Chief Minister announced a series of measures to boost healthcare infrastructure in the districts of Sambalpur, Deogarh, Angul, Kendrapada, Balangir and Sonepur.
As per the announcement, the six patient welfare committees of district headquarters hospitals in those districts will get an assistance of Rs 15 lakh each from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
Rest sheds will also be constructed for patient attendants in the district headquarters hospitals.
While the bed capacity in the district headquarters hospitals of Deogarh, Kendrapara and Sonepur will be raised to 200, the bed capacity of Angul district headquarters hospital will be increased from the present 192 to 300, the CMO statement read. At Sambalpur district headquarters hospital, 50 more beds will be added to the Mother and Child Healthcare Center (MCH). And in Balangir, the teaching and hospital building of the Santh Bhima Bhoi Medical College is expected to be completed within two years.
Police superintendents of those six districts will also receive Rs 10 lakh each for promotion of blood donation programmes.
The biggest news on the police front, of course, came on December 9 when ace cop Abhay took charge as the Director General of Police (DGP). Prior to joining the top post, the 1986-batch IPS officer served as the Director of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad.
As is common knowledge by now, his appointment as DGP happened amid controversial circumstances after B.K Sharma – who was also the Fire Service DG – was removed from the top police post after the Odisha government formed a high-level committee to probe into inordinate delays in issuance of fire safety certificates. Many political and media observers saw this development as one of the biggest examples of the Naveen Patnaik government’s zero-tolerance policy on corruption.
Immediately after assuming his new office, Abhay listed several priorities to serve the people.
On the top of the list seemed to be his commitment towards ensuring enhanced monitoring of organised crime, raising the standards of overall investigation procedures and improving conviction percentage. While he expressed satisfaction that the Naxal situation has much improved over the past half a decade, he assured that the police will keep working towards further reducing the menace.
Many police officials see this change of guard as a positive development that sends the right message to everyone serving public office about the importance of adherence to the Mo Sarkar initiative and the 5T model of governance in general.
However, the brightest indication of Odisha’s much enhanced status on the national and international maps came late last month from the world of sports – when Naveen announced that the 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup will be held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela.
The announcement came not long after the International Hockey Federation (FIH) picked India once again to stage the game’s premier event. Given that the 2018 edition of the Men’s Hockey World Cup was held in Bhubaneswar, the FIH decision meant it would be the first time in history for any country ever to host the Men’s Hockey World Cup twice on the trot. The fact that the same state and city would host the global spectacle made the accomplishment all the more special.
“World Cup is the pinnacle of tournaments in hockey for the FIH. It needs to have a certain standard and, at present, only Bhubaneswar and Delhi have facilities up to that. Now Rourkela also has it, it only needs to be upgraded. Delhi is not possible because the stadium is completely occupied by the Union Home Ministry and severely restricting government rules,” IOA and FIH president Narinder Batra was quoted by the Sportstar as saying.
However, to many observers and analysts, the big decision came as no big surprise. After all, the 2018 World Cup that was played out in Bhubaneswar’s state-of-the-art Kalinga Stadium was a spectacular success. This was thanks in no small part to the Naveen Patnaik administration’s efforts to ensure the state capital put its best foot forward to welcome the world. Besides, the city already holds an enviable record of smoothly hosting some major international sporting events such as the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships, 2017 FIH Hockey World League Final, FIH Men's Series Finals this year and the recently held FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers.
While addressing the crowd at the Kalinga Stadium during a brief ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup, Naveen declared that the 2023 edition of the grand event will be held from January 13 to 29.
And then he went on to ask the crowd: “Are you happy?”
The Chief Minister who has been ruling the state and the heart of its people for nearly two decades must have already known the answer. Because, while he is setting up Paika rebellion memorials and the likes to make sure that Odisha gets due recognition for its historical contributions to the country, he is also doing everything in his capacity to ensure an ever brighter present and future for the state.