Happy Birthday To The Quintessential Leader of Odisha: Man of the Masses Naveen Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Today is the birthday of our beloved Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik – the father figure for more than forty five million Odias. He is a formidable face of Indian polity and a quintessential leader, who has dedicated his life for the development of Odisha and its people. While we pray for the wellbeing of this leader on this beautiful day, we would also dive into the nuances that make him great and continues to serve as the second longest serving chief minister in India.

There are very few politicians in India who can match the stature of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Known for his straight forward governance and political approach, his leadership has brought a generational transformation for Odisha. He has brought Odisha to a leadership position among the states of India where others look forward to it for guidance today. Over the decades, Naveen continues to lead the state bringing glory in and every aspect of development be it economic, social, health, education, sports or any other parameter. For him age is just a number.

The soft-spoken, well-read, and the most cultured Chief Minister of India just prefers to work behind the scenes rather than seeking the limelight with rhetoric. Naveen is the most successful Chief Minister of the country in the last few decades. He has defied anti-incumbency, political adversaries, natural disasters, and public health crises with remarkable resilience and efficiency. He belongs to a rare breed of politicians for whom there are no enemies but only adversaries.

What is the secret of his success? How has he managed to retain the trust and support of the people of Odisha for the last 25 years? What are his achievements and challenges as a leader and a statesman?

The answer lies in his unique style of governance, which combines pragmatism, vision, inclusiveness, and innovation. He has focused on delivering development, welfare, and empowerment to the people of Odisha, especially the poor and the women. He has also pursued a balanced and cooperative approach to the Centre-State relations, maintaining his autonomy and identity while seeking collaboration and assistance from the union government.

The leadership of Naveen Patnaik has brought multipronged development to the state of Odisha. Under his leadership, Odisha has transformed from a backward and debt-ridden state to one of the fastest-growing and fiscally prudent states in India. Odisha’s Gross Domestic Product grew at an average annual rate of 8.23 percent between 2003-04 and 2019-20, higher than the national average of 7.15 percent. It is likely to be more than 8.5 percent during 2023-24 financial year. The state’s per capita income increased from Rs 14,862 in 2000-01 to Rs 1,04,566 in 2019-20, while its debt-to-GDP ratio declined from 48.9 percent in 2002-03 to 16.8 percent in 2019-2021.

Odisha has achieved remarkable progress in reducing poverty and improving human development indicators. The state’s poverty ratio declined from 57.2 percent in 2004-05 to 32.6% in 2011-22, the highest reduction among all states in India. The state’s literacy rate has increased from 63.1 percent in 2001 to 72.9 percent in 2013, while its infant mortality rate decreased from 96 per 1000 live births in 2000 to 41 per 1000 live births in 2019.

In the words of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, empowerment of women is the empowerment of the nation. No household, no society, no state, no country has ever moved forward without empowering its women. Because of his tireless efforts for bringing in a consensus for reservation of women led to the Union Government for passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Parliament recently. The historic decision of Naveen Patnaik to field women candidates in 33 per cent of Lok Sabha seats during general elections of 2019 heralded a new era of political empowerment of women in the country. Such a bold decision resulted in setting an example for rest of the country and indeed the world.

Under his leadership, Odisha has emerged as a pioneer and a role model for women empowerment in India. He introduced 50 percent reservation for women in local bodies and co-operative societies, making Odisha the first state to do so. He has also launched several innovative initiatives for enhancing the participation and leadership of women in various spheres of life. These include Mission Shakti, a self-help group movement that covers over seven million women; Mamata, a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant and lactating women; KALIA, a farmer welfare scheme that provides financial assistance to both male and female farmers; Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, a universal health coverage scheme that provides free health care services to all families with an additional benefit of Rs 10 lakh for women; Mo School Abhiyan, a campaign that encourages alumni to contribute to their alma mater with special focus on girls’ education; Mo College Abhiyan, a similar campaign for higher education institutions; Mo Sarkar, a citizen feedback system that monitors the quality of public services with special emphasis on women-friendly facilities.

Mission Shakti has shown the world that successful women empowerment has the trickle down impact on the economy, livelihood, social development, healthcare and education of the state. From a humble beginning in the year 2001, Mission Shakti today has become a force to be reckoned with. It has become a revolution today and brought under its ambit more than 70 lakh self-help group (SHG) members. Several decisions for economic empowerment of these women have been taken and one particular decision – to outsource a number of activities of the Government to these women self-help groups, has created huge opportunities for them to stand on their own for their economic betterment.

Mo Sarkar (My Government) is a historic and landmark initiative by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for making governance people centric and categorically reaffirming at the practical level that people are the real masters and people’s representatives and public officials are there to serve them and not to act as their lords. Mo Sarkar mandates that people visiting the Government offices are treated with dignity and their grievances are dealt with and monitored with utmost sincerity. Such ideas of governance leading to service of people with dignity meant bringing about transformation of the way in which the Government functions. The adoption of five Ts- Technology, Transparency, Timely completion of work, Team work and Transformation- which remain at the core of the idea of Mo Sarkar, has made the government accountable to the people and the drive to get people’s voices heard in every aspect of governance as well as public service delivery.

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for majority of the population. Nearly 48% of the manpower is engaged in the agriculture sector. Odisha is the only state in the country to have doubled farmers’ income in the last decade. From a rice deficit State, Odisha is now the third largest contributor to the PDS system in the country. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s innovative schemes like “Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation” have ensured farmers’ empowerment. KALIA is the biggest ever individual beneficiary scheme in the history of Odisha. This path breaking scheme has been an eye opener for many States and the Central Government. Food production in the State has multiplied over the years and is sustainable. The hard working farmers of Odisha are responsible for the State getting the prestigious Krishi Karman award five times since 2013-14.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has given utmost priority on transformation of the heritage sites in the state. Starting with the Puri Srimandir, the Naveen Patnaik Government has taken the initiatives for the facelift of major heritage sites, such as Lingaraj Temple, Chandi Temple in Cuttack, Nilamadhav Temple, Kantilo, Sarala Temple in Jagatsinghpur district, Samaleswari Temple development in Sambalpur district. On this line, the transformation works of Maa Taratarini temple has been completed and the Pratishtha Mahotsav of renovated temple was recently organized. The beautification of the Maa Taratarini temple in Ganjam district is the best example of 5T transformation initiative that the Naveen government has been sincerely pursuing for the development of the ancient shrines. The State Government has also allotted funds for repair and beautification of several mosques and churches. It affirms the Naveen Government’s commitment to respect all faiths equally and uphold secularism.

Under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Odisha has made a giant leap towards achieving his mission of ensuring universal healthcare system. The introduction of Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) scheme that assures free health services to all the people from sub-centre to medical colleges is a testimony to it. The scope of the BSKY has been enhanced with the introduction of BSKY Smart Health Cards, a first of its kind initiative in the country. In just three years, more than 71 lakh families constituting nearly half of the population of the state have been covered under the health initiative. The revolutionary step has helped millions of people in getting free treatment in both government and private hospitals. Exactly after three years of its launch, the revolutionary Smart Health Cards have been launched in the State to provide annual health coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family (Rs 10 lakh for female members). With this card, the patients get instant access to healthcare services at all government hospitals and more than 200 private hospitals both in Odisha and outside.

In the last two decades, the sports infrastructure in the state has undergone massive transformation. With a humble beginning from hockey turfs in Bhubaneswar and Sundergarh, Odisha today has become the sports capital of the country. Successful organization of international sports events has caught the limelight of national and international even managers. Spending on sports infrastructure in the state in the last two decades has increased manifolds. Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar today is the state of the art sporting complex for athletics too. Odisha successfully organised Asian Athletics Championships, Women’s Gold Cup Football, Men’s FIH Olympic Qualifiers, Women’s FIH Olympic Qualifiers, Men’s Hockey Series Finals, Men’s Hockey World Cup, Men’s FIH Hockey World League, Hockey Champions Trophy, National Open Athletics Championships and many more events. This year, as a recognition for its commitment to furtherance of sports, Odisha hosted the FIH 2023 World Cup Hockey tournament. Rourkela also got the largest Hockey Stadium of the World in 2023.

Odisha has taken a bold step to empower the common people by giving them land rights over where they reside. For the people living in forest areas, the state government has taken the step to provide them land rights. Under the Forest Rights Act, the state has given land titles to more than five lakh people dwelling in forest areas. Likewise, the government has also taken steps to give the slum dwellers a respective life with entitlement for land. Odisha’s JAGA Mission or the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission (OLHM) that aims for empowering urban poor in the state won the bronze at the World Habitat Awards.

Creation of Special Development Councils (SDCs) is a path-breaking initiative for development of tribal communities in the State. The SDCs formed in the nine districts, such as Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri and Nabarangapur, where the tribals comprise about 50 per cent of the total population of the districts, help in preserving tribal culture, art, tradition, language and talents. Odisha is the first State in the country to have such councils for tribal development.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has implemented a slew of reformative measures to strengthen the higher education system in Odisha. The latest initiative is the University Amendment Bill, 2020, which seeks to bring a paradigm shift the way the govt-run universities in the State are functioning. It is a pragmatic step in the right direction in ensuring quality education, efficient faculty staff and quality research in the universities in Odisha. Another pathbreaking initiative is the the High School Transformation Programme. In the words of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, “It is the common responsibility of all of us to help the children realize their dreams and it is the dreams that chart the way forward in student life”. The High School Transformation programme is a demonstration of Naveen Patnaik’s vision of enabling Odisha students to excel in every field, know about new technologies and bring glory to the state.

Odisha has today become a global leader and a best practice example for disaster management and resilience. The government under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has successfully handled several cyclones, floods, droughts, and pandemics with minimal loss of life and property. Thrust on investments on building robust infrastructure, institutions, and capacities for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery have helped the state to limit the causalities. Based on the 5T Initiatives, Odisha has been leveraging technology, communication, and coordination for effective disaster management. Be it evacuating over one million people ahead of the super cyclone Phailin in 2013, which resulted in reducing the death toll to just 44 compared to over 10,000 in the 1999 super cyclone or launching the Early Warning Dissemination System, a first-of-its-kind system that provides timely and accurate alerts to the coastal communities through multiple channels; or establishing the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority, a nodal agency for coordinating and implementing disaster management policies and programs, all these have had a great impact on Odisha’s resilience.

Known for its track record of efficiently handling natural disasters, Odisha has managed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic quite efficiently under the guidance of Naveen Patnaik. The management of Covid -19 pandemic with proactive measures like imposing lockdowns, ramping up testing and vaccination, providing relief and compensation to the affected people, establishing state of the art hospitals etc resulted in saving innumerable lives.

These are some of the examples of how Naveen Patnaik has transformed Odisha into a progressive, prosperous, and proud state. He has earned respect and admiration from his people as well as from his peers across the country. He has also received several awards and honours for his outstanding leadership and governance. He is widely regarded as one of the most successful and popular chief ministers in India.

However, he is not complacent or satisfied with his achievements. He is always looking for new challenges and opportunities to serve his state better. He is constantly learning from his experiences and experimenting with new ideas. He is humble and gracious in his interactions with others. He is also compassionate and generous in his dealings with those who need his help.

In September last, while receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, CM Naveen said “My lifetime achievement will be to see an empowered and spirited Odisha claiming her place in the sun. We are on the right path and by Lord Jagannath’s grace and the support of our people, we shall get there soon.”

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