THE PERFECT PICK
New Chief Secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy seems to be more than up to the task of ensuring the implementation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s grand plans for Odisha
Time waits for no one, especially in a vibrant democracy, and every couple of years the ruling regime in Odisha must decide whom to place at the helm of executive administration for the best possible implementation of the government’s schemes and policies.
A few weeks ago, five-time Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik once again took some big decisions as then chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi, a 1983-batch IAS officer who had been serving in the position for well over three and a half years, took voluntary retirement from service following his appointment as the next State Election Commissioner on the eve of Independence Day.
By this time, speculation was running rife that Asit Kumar Tripathy, a 1986-batch IAS officer, had pole position in the race for the top executive post of Odisha.
After all, Tripathy was already concurrently holding a handful of important portfolios as the state’s Development Commissioner, Additional Chief Secretary, Home department, as well as the Chief Administrator of the Koraput-Balangir-Kalahandi (KBK) region. More importantly, along with having a time-tested reputation as a corruption- and controversy-free bureaucrat, he was also widely known to be doing an exceptional job juggling his varied responsibilities.
The next day, when India celebrated 72 years of freedom from the British Raj, it turned out that the word on the street was right on the money: The Chief Minister’s Office released a statement announcing the appointment of Tripathy as the next Chief secretary of Odisha.
Four days later, when Padhi officially passed the baton to Tripathy in the presence of the press and many senior officials of the state at the Lok Seva Bhawan in Bhubaneswar, the Balangir native became the 43rd Chief Secretary of Odisha and the 12th to be working with Naveen in the course of the Biju Janta Dal’s nearly two decades of uninterrupted rule in the state.
After taking over charge, Tripathy expressed much appreciation for the “big responsibility” he had been entrusted with. “I am very happy … It is a big privilege for any IAS officer,” the new Chief Secretary told the media.
And then he promptly outlined how he was planning to play his new role.
Noting that the Chief Minister had prioritised the importance of efficient and transparent implementation of schemes for the social justice sector, Tripathy suggested he would focus first and foremost on cutting the bureaucratic red tape and ensuring that government files were cleared expeditiously.
Stating that he firmly believed in minimising the time taken to study a file, the Chief Secretary also made it clear in no uncertain terms that he expected all officers in the state to prioritise timely clearance of files as well.
Tripathy reasserted his commitment to the 5T framework – comprised of teamwork, technology, transparency, transformation and time limit – devised by the Chief Minister for transforming Odisha into a model state for the rest of the country.
The second most important area of his focus, the Chief Secretary affirmed, would be the overall economic growth and development of the state. He said he would work towards improving the per capita income, employment rate, and infrastructure standards of the state.
In his elevated role now, as he supervises 20 departments – Home, Finance, Law, General Administration and Public Grievance, Planning and Convergence, Revenue and Disaster Management, Energy, Health and Family Welfare, Forest and Environment, Housing and Urban Development, Water Resources, Works, Parliamentary Affairs, Steel and Mines, Industries, MSME, Tourism, Electronics and Information Technology, Parliamentary Affairs and Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare – Tripathy has his hands full ensuring the alignment of his objectives with Naveen’s grand vision for the state.
But that is unlikely to be a struggle by any means for the new Chief Secretary.
Since his appointment as top bureaucrat of the state, he has already shown signs that reveal how deeply his ideas of ideal administration match with the Chief Minister’s.
“Unless you have empathy for the people at the bottom of the pyramid, it doesn’t make good business sense,” Tripathy said while delivering the inaugural speech at XIMB’s business excellence summit last month.
In view of his recent expressions of commitment to Naveen’s plans and vision for Odisha, not to mention his stellar bureaucratic career so far, most political analysts in the state and beyond seem to be in agreement on one point: Tripathy is more than up to the task.