Bhubaneswar: When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too. This famous quote of Paulo Coelho fits best to the young and energetic V Karthikeya Pandian whose birthday is today. The 2000 Batch IAS officer, who is also christened as the Man with a Mission in the transformation and development of Odisha, has been with every success in the state under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Better Known as V K Pandian or only Pandian, he is today working on a task to bring smiles to every face. His unparalleled commitment to his duty not only made him a champion among the masses, but also a cherished officer for the government.
Be it transforming the cities of cultural heritage or making the state a sports hub for international tournaments, Pandian has made his mark in all developmental works of the state. While he is known for his commitment to working for the state, another aspect of his social life is also interesting – his love for children especially the needy and special ones. Sraddha Sanjeevani in Gopalpur is an example of his compassion towards the children in need. It was set up in 2007, by the Ganjam District administration when Pandian was the Collector of the district. It is a special home for the HIV infected orphans and lends vulnerable children a new lease of life. He was also instrumental in arranging a marriage of two of the inmates of Sraddha Sanjeevani who were blessed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. During his visits to the districts, Pandian is often seen visiting to orphanages and hostels where children are reared to succeed in life. This aspect of attachment with ground level activities makes him a true inspiration for the others.
His tryst with Odisha began in the year 2000 when he became an Odisha cadre civil servant and started his career in the development of the state. In 2002, he became the Sub-Collector of Dharmagarh where he left his mark by continuously improving the revenue sources for the government. His tough stance with the millers ensured full payment of MSP to the farmers and profits to cooperative societies. People still remember his action. This had an impact on the revenues and helped the government to get highest ever revenue collection during that time. This initiative got him the appreciation and felicitation from the Chief Minister. As ADM in Rourkela, he had a blazing tenure of Seven months. He was instrumental in the eviction of Chend Market and letting people getting back their hard earned money after 15 years.
V K Pandian was one of the youngest Collectors of the country when he took charge of Odisha’s largest district – Mayurbhanj. His daily visits to the remote villages of the district helped accelerating the development process on the ground. During his tenure, Mayurbhanj received the National Award for the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). He set in place a mechanism whereby PwDs could be identified and rehabilitated at the village and block levels. This was later adopted as a State policy by the Government of Odisha. For his contribution to the upliftment of persons with disabilities, V K Pandian was awarded with the prestigious Hellen Keller Award – a rare distinction in the state.
Pandian’s pioneering and Out of Box interventions continued when he became the Collector of Ganjam. The district got the National Award for being the best district in the country in NREGs implementation. He was instrumental in bringing in groundbreaking innovations by undertaking payment of wages through bank accounts – well before it was adopted by the State or at the national level. A record Rs 100 crores was transferred in this manner into the bank accounts of thousands of labourers. His successful approach resulted in Ganjam getting the Presidents’ Award twice for leading changes. The people friendly approach helped maximize the mandays under NREGA and minimize the incidents of labour migration to other states. The innovations implemented in Ganjam such as transfer of wages to bank accounts and putting up of Citizen Information Boards were later adopted nationally. These steps showed a deep sensitivity and understanding of people and an intent to root out corruption in government functioning.
V K Pandian took the mantle as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Private Secretary in the year 2011 and has been assisting the Chief Minister till date in all the developmental activities. Because of his sheer commitment to his duty, he became Naveen’s choice for the post. With his impeccable track record and successfully doing his duties, Naveen handed over to his an important task of transforming the Governance by making him the Secretary 5T Initiatives. This assignment was entrusted to him for his qualities as a team player. Those who have worked with him swear by his fierce loyalty and unimaginable support.
With Pandian at the helm of Naveen’s transformation agenda, a number of reforms have been undertaken in the state. Odisha is witnessing a visible change in all parameters of development propelled by the 5T Initiatives.
The most ambitious Heritage Corridor Project for Puri is one of the brightest examples of transformation being carried out in the state. The project aims to develop the holy city of Puri into a world heritage city with all world class amenities. The work on the ground has started and people have already experienced the change on ground. Today’s Puri is being hailed as a true example of transformation. Not only Puri, all the major religious institutions and shrines such as the Lingaraja Temple, Samalei Temple, Ghatagaon Tarini Temple, Taratarini Temple in Ganjam, Nrusinghanath in Bargarh, Harishankar in Balangir, St Paul Protestant Church in Kalahandi, Mount House Church in Cuttack, Dargah-e-Huzoor Mujahid-e-Millat in Bhadrak, Jama Masjid in Bhubaneswar and Guru Singh Saheb Gurudwara in Sundargarh among others have been undergoing transformation.
Under the aegis 5T Initiatives, the healthcare scenario in the state has undergone a significant improvement. The biggest initiative to transform the healthcare infrastructure includes developing the premiere SCB Medical College Hospital in Cuttack into a world class facility in the AIIMS-Plus category. This will prove immensely helpful for the people of Odisha and minimize their health issues. The government has earmarked to spend Rs 3,500 crore to transform the SCB under the 5-T programme. It will be developed into a 5,000 bedded hospital with state of the art facilities for patients and doctors in next three years.
The healthcare transformation is not only limited to the SCB Medical. All the Medical College Hospitals of the state and District Headquarters Hospitals are being transformed to provide free healthcare to the needy. The initiation of the transformation program under 5T Initiatives in the healthcare sector has come as a blessing in disguise for the state during this pandemic period. The healthcare facilities in the districts had already undergoing development with senior officials making numerous visits to review the works. 5T Secretary himself went to various districts to undertake on ground review of the developmental works. The preparedness by the hospitals helped tremendously in preparing and facing the Covid-19 pandemic. Odisha could minimize the mortality rate to a great extent due to its preparedness in advance. The role of V K Pandian in preparing the state for Covid-19 Management in the state cannot be ignored. His transformation agenda worked wonders and a big infrastructure was in place in Odisha well before the virus entered into. His visits to various Covid hospitals to review the progress resulted in swift action. With his sheer commitment to his duty, Pandian is being hailed as the best administrator.
In addition to the development agenda under the 5T initiative, a blueprint is being drawn for an inclusive Odisha by the year 2036. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s ambitious vision for 2036 is being crafted by none other than the 5T secretary.
With the active interest of V K Pandian, Odisha can boast itself as the sports capital of the country. In the last few years Odisha has transformed itself as an attractive destination for major international and national tournaments. The State has successfully positioned itself in the sports map of the country by hosting major international sporting events. At a time when other states found it difficult to host a number of prestigious events for the country for various reasons, Odisha stood ahead and took the challenge and hosted some of the big ticket events like Hockey World Cup and the Asian Athletic Championship. Adding another feather, Odisha will again host the next Hockey World Cup in 2013.
Winning the franchise for Kalinga Lancers in the Hockey India League (HIL), hosting the prestigious Champions Trophy Hockey Tournament, managing the Asian Athletics Championship, Hockey World League of 2017 and the 2018 edition of the Hockey World Cup, have all demonstrated Odisha’s determination towards development of sports and games in the state. All this is again attributed to the hard work of V K Pandian, Secretary 5T Initiatives.
Pandian’s love from sports is reflected in his works for developing the sports infrastructure. This transformative journey of Odisha Sports started way back in 2010-11 when VK Pandian joined CM’s Office and the two sports lovers – Naveen being a great lover of hockey and himself a golie in hockey and V K Pandian who came from a sports hostel, drew the road map to put Odisha into the global map so far as promotion of sports is concerned.
Due to his hard work, Kalinga Stadium Sports complex in Bhubaneswar has become a global destination for hockey events. His love for sports and sports persons can be judged from the fact that he frequents sports hostels whenever he goes on a visit outside and also interacts with them on their problems and needs. Last year, on the occasion of Diwali, Pandian was seen in the Sports Hostel situated in Kalinga Stadium where he spent his quality time with the inmates and sharing thoughts ranging from development of sports to solving the problems. During his surprise visits to districts as part of the Mo Sarkar initiative, Pandian also reviewed the development of sports infrastructure in districts. Pandian himself is a middle distance runner and studied from a sports hostel.
Adding another feather to his achievements, recently, the International Hockey Federation or the FIH bestowed the President’s Award on V K Pandian for his outstanding contribution to promote hockey in the State.
Another facet of V K Pandian is his simplicity and rare magnanimity. His down to earth attitude has helped him to concentrate his achievements for the welfare of the people. His association with the colleagues in the government and admiration to the seniors is reflected in his team work. His simplicity can be gauged from the fact that on the occasion of the Independence day in 2020, he himself drove the car for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik – a rare instance of respect and faithfulness.