Right Man For the Right Job

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One of the most important factors behind the success of chief minister Naveen Patnaik has been his choice of men. He has carefully selected bureaucrats to carry out the most vital assignments. His ability to pick up the right person for the right job is evident from his choice of 2000 batch IAS officer VK Pandian as his secretary and the first 5T secretary of the state. The man has galvanized the state administration

What makes Naveen Patnaik tick? This is a question that has been asked over and over again since the longest serving chief minister of Odisha won his fifth back to back term in office two years ago. The answer is simple: it is the chief minister’s ability to pick up the right people for the right jobs, ensure both efficiency and transparency in governance.

No wonder the focus of governance in his fifth term has been on what is popularly referred to as 5T (Team work, technology, transparency, transformation and time limit). This transformative initiative takes within its ambit highly praised administrative reforms programmes such as Mo Sarkar. Patnaik has wisely chosen his trusted secretary VK Pandian as the state’s first 5T secretary. The 2000 batch IAS officer has been discharging his duties with exemplary efficiency and has galvanized the state administration almost singlehandedly.

That he enjoys complete trust of the chief minister is evident from the fact that he has been serving as his secretary for nearly a decade now. An excellent strategist with an eye for detail he has been the bulwark of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government’s success and, to a large extent, even responsible for the electoral success of the ruling party.  as the reputation of being an excellent backroom strategist. Given his training as a bureaucrat he can plan and execute moves meticulously.

Sources said that Pandian came to the notice of the chief minister during his stint as the sub-collector of Dharmgarh in Kalahandi which he helped transform from a sleepy, under-developed town into a reasonably developed area. He took some bold initiatives to ensure this transformation which is still remembered by the people.

While his stint as the collector of tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj is also remembered for accelerating pace of development in the district his most fruitful tenure as collector was in Ganjam, the home district of Patnaik. He implemented the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in the district in an exemplary manner, bringing down the scale of labour migration from the area and also came up with innovative ideas like transfer of wages to the bank accounts.

He has brought the same touch in the implementation of 5T which has revolutionized the state administration. There is not only a high degree of efficiency but also greater transparency. One of the most popular initiatives launched under the umbrella of 5T is “Mo Sarkar” which aims at bringing the government closer to the people and involving them in the administration by seeking their feedback on the quality of governance. It began with a bang with chief minister himself taking feedbacks from people on their experience in police stations. The impact was immediate and electric. The attitude of the men in khaki towards complainants and others visiting police stations changed immediately. People for the first time began treating police as their friend.

While the chief minister was seeking feedbacks Pandian along with other senior officials was making field visits to various districts along with other senior officials to have a look at the facilities in hospitals. In the course of these visits he also collected the feedback of common people about the availability and quality of services and improvements in hospitals and health centres were made in the light of that. Thanks to this effort the state was more than prepared to deal with COVID-19 when the first wave of the pandemic hit the state last year.

Now not only most of the government departments but even COVID-19 management in the state has been brought under the purview of Mo Sarkar. The impact is there for anyone to see. There is not only enhanced efficiency but also greater accountability. No wonder Odisha is among the first states of the country to have successfully controlled the pandemic and brought down cases to appreciably.

Most of the important projects in the state are being personally supervised by Pandian. Not long ago he visited several project sites in Bhubaneswar and reviewed the progress of the Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) at Baramunda,  the new road being built to connect CRPF square to Institute of Mathematics, affordable housing project in Chandrasekharpur and Incubation tower near Infocity. As is always the case with the 5T secretary, who was accompanied other senior officials, the two aspects that were emphasized the most by him were quality of work and meeting the deadlines.

The Tamil Nadu born bureaucrat has also been working hard to transform the economy of the state, turning it into one of the most favoured investment destinations of the country. Even with COVID pandemic raging in the state it was able to attract investments worth Rs 2.96 lakh crore during 2020-21 financial year. The latest feather in the government’s cap on this front is the agreement with steelmaker ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India (AM/NS India) to set up a 12 mtpa integrated steel plant in Kendrapada district with an investment of ₹50,000 crore.

Pandian like his boss is a great lover of sports and has been working in hard to realize Patnaik’s dream of turning Bhubaneswar into the sports capital of the country. Thanks to their efforts Hockey Men’s World Cup was organized in Bhubaneswar for the first time in 2018, making every Odia proud. The event put Odisha on the sports map of the world. Pandian’s contribution in organizing the premier hockey event was recognized recently by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) which conferred on him the FIH Presidents’ Award for development and promotion of hockey in Odisha. Now the state is gearing up to host the event once again in 2023 with matches to be played at Bhubaneswar’s Kalinga stadium as well as a new stadium coming up in the steel city of Rourkela. It will be the largest hockey stadium of the country with a seating capacity of 20,000.

Power corridors have been abuzz with the talk of Pandian’s clout and closeness with the chief minister. This also evokes jealousy and criticism from the opponents of chief minister Naveen Patnaik. But Patnaik’s trust in him is complete and rightly so.

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