Collecting Well Deserved Accolades


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised chief minister Naveen Patnaik on several occasions, the last one being his speech in the Rajya Sabha. While many have been surprised by Modi’s admiration for Patnaik, for those who know the chief minister well it comes as no surprise. The chief minister of Odisha has so many positives to his credit and his achievements are worthy of praise by anyone.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fulsome praise of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik while replying to the Motion of Thanks in the Rajya Sabha in February had taken many by surprise. The Prime Minister had lauded Patnaik government’s reforms in the coal and mining sectors in sync with the Centre’s vision and congratulated the Odisha chief minister for working shoulder to shoulder with his government. He had cited this as a good example of cooperative federalism while pointing out that Odisha was the first state to have introduced such reforms. The Prime Minister’s euology raised eyebrows because Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) happens to be the main opposition party in Odisha where Patnaik, who also happens to be the president of ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), has been in power for last 21 years.

Eversince the collapse of BJP-BJD alliance in 2009 the two parties have been arch rivals. State BJP leaders never miss an opportunity to criticize the chief minister and his party. Hence, Patnaik getting a pat on the back from the Prime Minister must have caused some embarrassment to the state BJP leadership.    But this was not the first time that Modi had lavished praise on Patnaik with whom he has always shared extremely cordial relations despite political differences. In 2019 the Prime Minister had lauded Patnaik government’s superb disaster mitigation efforts during cyclone Fani while extending full support to the state’s rehabilitation and restoration exercise in the wake of the gale. Modi had made particular mention of the massive evacuation drive carried out by Odisha government ahead of cyclone Fani. Speaking to reporters then the Prime Minister had said, “The Patnaik-led government has done a commendable job in evacuating coastal areas to avoid loss of lives.”The political opponents of Patnaik tend to dismiss such instances of Prime Minister heaping praise on him as “political drama” and accuse the two leaders of having a tacit understanding. Citing examples of BJD’s support for the BJP-led NDA government on important issues like abrogation of article 370 and Triple Talaq bill they allege that the so-called rivalry between BJP and BJD in Odisha is nothing but a mock fight. They also make fun of BJD’s avowed policy of maintaining equidistance from Congress and the BJP, dubbing it as politics of convenience. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

The fact is that chief minister Naveen Patnaik has been drawing praise not only from the Prime Minister but from many other quarters for the good work being done by his government which has brought the state into national focus. One of the latest achievements of the government is making the state assembly completely paperless.  Odisha assembly has been adjudged as the number one Paperless Vidhan Sabha in the country. This is no small feat considering the volume of paper work that used to be done in the legislature till a few months ago.

As the head of country’s most pro-poor government of the country, Patnaik has come out with a plethora of schemes for the downtrodden. His flagship poverty alleviation scheme under which rice is provided to the poor at Rs.1 per kg has been lauded by economists around the country. Another initiative aimed at mitigating hunger and poverty from the state is called Aahar Yojana under which poor people living urban areas are provided meals for just Rs.5. It is because of such efforts that hunger deaths have become a thing of past in the state which is now known not only at the national but also at international level as a great investment destination where industries are prospering.

Odisha has also been marching ahead in the field of sports with Bhubaneswar emerging as the hockey capital of the country. Now the state capital is gearing up to host 2023 Men’s hockey world cup. Matches will be played both at Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar and an upcoming stadium in Rourkela which, when complete, will be the largest hockey stadium in India.  Hockey enjoys the special patronage of Odisha government because both chief minister Naveen Patnaik and his secretary V Kathikeyan Pandian happen to be lovers of the game. Pandian played a special role in ensuring the success of the 2018 Men’s World Cup hockey in Bhubaneswar. This event brought the state capital into international limelight. In May last year the contribution of Pandian in this regard was recognized when he was conferred with the FIH (International Hockey Federation) President’s Award. Now Pandian, who is also state’s first 5T secretary and a bureaucrat who always leads by example, is working hard to ensure the success of the Men’s hockey world cup in 2023.

But sports is not the only area that Patnaik government has been paying attention to. It has also been trying hard to improve the lot of farmers by campaigning for high MSP (minimum support price) rates and also taking care to ensure that their paddy gets purchased within the state at a fair price. Since in the past there have been allegations of state farmers suffering and not getting their due while selling their rice as state “mandis” ( government-sponsored market yards )  in the border areas get flooded with paddy from neighbouring states Patnaik government this time is being extra cautious. Collectors of at least 17paddy producing districts have been asked to step up the vigil on their borders to prevent paddy smuggling from neighbouring states, particularly Chhatisgarh which shares a long border with several western Odisha districts. So with the rabi paddy procurement exercise having begun from May 1 collectors are keepinh a strict watch on the movement of paddy from across the border. Special squads have been formed for the purpose. In fact, the department of Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare and Cooperation has written to the Director General of Police and collectors to take necessary steps to check  illegal transportation of paddy during the procurement which will continue till June 30. They have been told that vehicles found transporting paddy without due permission from the government during the procurement season should be seized and criminal action should be initiated against the transporters, traders and rice millers involved in illegal transaction of paddy. This will help genuine registered farmers of the state get their dues.                            With such moves the popularity of Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has been growing. Patnaik’s decisions such as nomination of candidates for Rajya Sabha, this time representation having been given in a balanced manner to women, tribals and OBCs, have also earned him praise from one and all. If he continues in this vein he could rule Odisha for as long as he wants to.