Naveen Patnaik – A Reader of Hearts and A Leader of the Mission Called ‘Odisha’

Bhubaneswar: There have been societies, circumstances and times. Times and circumstances do contribute but are largely neutral. It is leaders who, with their disposition to courage and initiative, herald changes. History of the humankind is dotted with instances of times, spaces and the concomitant leaders. Leaders, however vary in terms of their impact, influence and inspirational quotient. There are very few leaders in history who have been as impactful in their development score-card, as influential in spreading the passion for people-focused results and as inspiring in rallying their team along as Naveen Patnaik – the Chief Minister of Odisha.

Today, as he turns 75, Naveen stands tall in the Indian polity with a place for himself in the hearts of the people of the state and the country that is all his own. In his little more than two decades of political career, he has redefined the meaning of governance, politics, development and public wellbeing. In the political world where people vote more against somebody than for somebody, Naveen’s aura and charisma as a mass and popular leader is getting stronger by the day despite his leadership for close to quarter of a century. But what gets him going is the all-too-visible fact that his mission of transforming Odisha into a prosperous state is taking place silently but relentlessly.

Naveen was born in a plush and lavish environment but in an environment which made him imbibe the inclination towards eminence and perfection. The early days of Naveen were happening with the high society and his association with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones band members and personalities like Jacqueline Kennedy shows his broad spectrum of interests. His writing acumen is documented and discernible in the books he has written. With having a broad insight into diverse social characteristics, Naveen started his journey in the political realm of Odisha. His sole and only ambition was seeing a developed Odisha – and from day one of his political career, his actions were directed towards bringing in a social-economic transformation. Ruling the state for nearly two decades, the five-time Chief Minister maintains a very low profile in public life and continues to lead a life of austerity donning a white kurta-pyjama and a pair of chappals. He displays an aura of quiet confidence and strength, and enjoys the larger than life popularity. The constant electoral success has only made him more humble and perhaps more reticent.

Naveen Patnaik’s political journey started in the year 1997 when he first became a member of the Lok Sabha from Aska Parliamentary Constituency after the sad demise of his father Biju Patnaik. His entry into Odisha’s political arena seems to be destined as there was a big vacuum in the state with no political leader having the command to lead the state. Naveen’s slow but steady development agenda has successfully transformed Odisha and set a new benchmark for others. In these two decades, the state has become a role model for others be it improvements in Human Development Index, agricultural output, industrial output, manufacturing robustness or public service delivery. Today, Naveen’s dream of achieving the prosperous tag is getting materialized. Odisha now is witnessing development that has become a point of reference for others. Be it transformation of the public healthcare delivery system or the transformation of the High Schools, development of Industry, Agricultural prosperity, augmenting sports infrastructure, Odisha is on the move. Some of the commendable initiatives of Odisha Government that are leading the transformation of the state include KALIA, BSKY, Mission Shakti, 5T Initiatives and Mo Sarkar.

Naveen’s visionary leadership has steered Odisha on the path of sustained and inclusive development and scale new heights of glory in all aspects. Naveen, who has been leading the development and transformation of Odisha as the Chief Minister since 2000, is unarguably the most successful and popular Chief Ministers in India because of his crystal clean image, austere life and transparent government. A staunch crusader of socio-economic development, Naveen Patnaik’s pro-people and development-oriented policies have helped Odisha to come out of the shackles of poverty and shine as one of the fastest developing states in the country. With his sheer commitment to the cause of the masses, he has won the hearts of the people and enjoys unparalleled support and affection of the people.

Naveen’s Govt is a Govt for ‘Life’: Today the world is fighting a war against Coronavirus (COVID-19), an invisible and alien enemy about which a little is known. There has been significant loss to mankind from this unknown adversary. Saving lives is the priority at this juncture, caring the disadvantaged with a human touch is also the call of the hour. While the governments around the world tried their best to contain the disease, Odisha, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, approached the crisis in a truly positive spirit and successfully demonstrated that problems can be tackled easily with disciplined management. The World Health Organization (WHO) has appreciated the State for its successful and efficient COVID management.

Global Benchmark in Disaster Management: Odisha is one of the most vulnerable States to natural calamities, witnessing major disasters every year often. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik commenced his fifth term in office in May 2019 in the backdrop of havoc caused by cyclone Fani – the intensity of which was equal to the super cyclone of 1999. In spite of the colossal disaster caused by that cyclone, the loss of human lives was very minimal. It was attributed to the high global benchmark of governance in managing that natural disaster and shifting a million people to shelter homes in a record time of four days. It was just an example of high global benchmark of Odisha in managing a natural disaster. The State under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik has successfully handled major disasters like Phailin and Fani and has earned global recognition.

Women Empowerment: 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. The Naveen-led government has taken several exemplary steps to politically and economically empower women. 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.

Similarly, 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.

5T Initiatives For Real Transformation: Odisha Government’s most ambitious transformation creativity is the 5T Initiatives. When Naveen Patnaik took over as the Chief Minister of Odisha for a record fifth term in a row, he knew the peoples’ expectations from this term are much higher than earlier. So he set in motion the ambitious 5T action plan. The ‘5Ts’ — short for ‘teamwork, technology, transparency, transformation and time limit’ — are the governance mantra Patnaik has given to his Cabinet colleagues and senior officials days after assuming the top office for the fifth time.

A Department of 5T has been created to carry out the initiative under the CM’s direct supervision. The charge of this newly created department has been given to the man who is believed to have the CM’s eyes and ears: his trusted private secretary VK Pandian. The CM has flagged off the new initiative by calling up visitors to police stations and hospitals, selected randomly, and get their feedback on the quality of services they receive and the way they are treated in these establishments. This also includes the ‘Mo Sarkar’ charter which is responsibly aimed at, and geared to, transforming the thinking and tools associated with the governance of the state. The historic initiative named ‘Mo Sarkar’ intends to make governance people-centric. It reaffirms that the common people are the masters and the people’s representatives and public officials are there to serve them only. ‘Mo Sarkar’ empowers the common man visiting the government offices to be treated with dignity and get all his grievances solved with sincerity and a time bound manner. Its main function is to bring about attitudinal alteration in the way the Government functions. The five Ts – Technology, Transparency, Timely Completion of Work, Team Work and Transformation – remain at the centre of the idea of ‘Mo Sarkar’ to make the government accountable to its citizens.

Under the aegis of the Mo Sarkar program, various departments of the state government have witnessed tremendous change in the last two years. Particularly, the service delivery mechanism in Police stations, Hospitals, Revenue Department offices – the three immediate fields impinging on the daily lives of citizens – have witnessed a complete transformation. In less than two years all Police stations and Hospitals have been brought under the purview of the Mo Sarkar Charter to ensure proper service delivery and feedback. The citizens now do not have to run to a police station again and again for registering a complaint. Rather the police will be following up the complainant. Each and every complainant will be dealt with dignity.

Farmer Empowerment & Agriculture Development: 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.

Transformation of Puri into World Heritage City: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s decision to transform the pilgrim city of Puri into a world heritage site by clearing commercial buildings and centuries-old dilapidated structures around 75 meters of the sacred shrine has added a glorious chapter in the history of Odisha. Such measures were never taken in the past. The magnificence and majesty of the sacred temple of Lord Jagannath has been reinstated with the restoration of the expansive space surrounding the shrine which attracts devotees and visitors from across the world. Similarly, the transformation of the sacred Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar is another major initiative of the government in promoting heritage sites. 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.

Universal Health Care and SCB Transformation: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s vision to provide Universal Health Care is well reflected in the BSKY scheme that assures free health services to all the people from Sub-centre to Medical Colleges. Besides, over 70 lakh economically vulnerable families in the State are provided annual Health coverage of Rs.5 lakh per family and Rs.10 lakh for the women members of the family. Apart from providing free universal health care services, the Government has taken a major decision to transform the premier Government medical college of the State, Srirama Chandra Bhanja Medical College and Hospital (SCB Medical College) to a world class medical institute. Such a decision would enable people of the State to look for world class medical facilities within the State.

Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana with Smart Cards: In the quest for bringing in Universal Healthcare in Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched the ambitious Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana on the auspicious occasion of the 72nd Independence Day in 2018. The aim was to provide best of the healthcare services to more than 70 lakh families of Odisha. In just three years, since its launch, the Biju Swasthhya Kalyan Yojana has brought under its fold more than 71 lakh families constituting more than half of the total population of the state. 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. The Government of Odisha will provide 1.5 Crore families consisting more than three and a half crore beneficiaries with Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana Smart Health Cards – again a first in the country. The Digital Smart Card will provide annual health insurance coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family (Rs 10 lakh for female members).

The total scheme is being digitized and all beneficiaries will be issued chip based smart cards which can provide instant access to healthcare services at all government hospitals and more than 200 private hospitals both in Odisha and outside. In the first phase, the Digital Smart Cards will be issued to the beneficiaries in Gajapati, Malkangiri, Balangir, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj districts. All other districts are expected to be covered by the end of this year. Launching the scheme, Naveen said that “the initiative will transform health service delivery system and create history in the health sector of the Country.

Odisha Becomes The Sports Hub of the Country: 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. The state is going to again host the FIH 2023 World Cup Hockey tournament in the year 2023 – a recognition for its commitment to furtherance of sports. Odisha’s patronage of Hockey resulted in both the Men’s and Women’s teams to achieve tremendous success in the recently concluded Olympic Games.

Poverty Eradication: Odisha, which was once infamous for hunger, poverty, and starvation deaths, now is one of the most steadily growing states in India. Its economic growth rate is much higher than the national average. The State has recorded the highest drop in poverty rate with nearly 8 million people being lifted above the poverty line in the last 10 years.

Land Rights to Forest and Slum Dwellers: 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 4.36 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.

Economic Growth: Under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik, Odisha’s economy is consistently growing at a higher rate compared to the national growth. During last seven years, the average growth rate of Odisha has remained about 8 percent compared to national average of about 6.9 percent. In spite of slowdown in global and national economy, Odisha’s economy continues to thrive. Along with its Manufacturing sector, the Information Technology and software industry is also experiencing robust growth.

Special Development Council: 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.

High School Transformation: One of Odisha government’s most ambitious programs to revamp the school education system being undertaken under the ‘Mo School Abhiyan’ is the High Schools Transformation Program. Driven by the core principles of 5T Initiatives, the Government has been transforming the essence and dynamics of more than a thousand government schools into state of the art learning centers. This project intends to change the traditional schools into technology driven learning centers where students are provided with the best education to make them better citizens. The government has made an allocation of Rs 253 Crore under ‘Mo School Program’ for infrastructure development of schools in various districts in the financial year 2021-22.

Smart Schools for Smart Kids: More than a thousand High Schools will be equipped with modern facilities such as Smart Classrooms, e-library, science laboratory, sports facilities, reading rooms, computer labs and other facilities. The overall look and feel of the school buildings are also being upgraded with new furniture, digital white boards, greenery and facilities such as clean drinking water, toilets and rest rooms. With the instructions of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, 5T Secretary V K Pandian has been directly monitoring the transformation initiative.

Another notable initiative that has been brought under the fold of 5T Initiatives is the transformation of the Adarsha Vidyalayas of the state. About 215 CBSE affiliated Adarsha Vidyalayas are providing best education to more than 58,712 underprivileged children from class VI through XII. What makes it a successful and unique effort is the enrolment of more girls in these co-educational residential schools. Odisha launched an unprecedented initiative to provide free quality education to underprivileged children through CBSE affiliated English-medium schools so that no deserving child of Odisha is deprived of his/her right to learn. The principles of 5T – Teamwork, Technology, Transparency, Time bringing in Transformation – are writ large here.

Reforms in Higher Education System: 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.

Successful Covid Management: Known for its track record of efficiently handling natural disasters, Odisha has managed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic quite efficiently. Odisha has recorded the highest recovery rate and least mortality rate in the whole country because of its fast mover efforts, stringent measures and best healthcare facilities. Odisha’s effective governance in collaboration with Panchayati Raj Institutions and community-based response strategy enabled it to contain the spread of the virus. With the instructions of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Odisha became the first to establish one of the country’s biggest 1000-bedded dedicated COVID hospital in a record time of just one week. Thirty dedicated district COVID hospitals (DCH) were also set up in all districts having all state of the art facilities including ICU and ventilators. The most important aspect in Odisha’s fight against Covid was leveraging Digital application in monitoring movement of cases and contacts. Identification of containment zones is also guided through a geographic information system (GIS). Besides, dedicated call centers are established to address public queries. Self-registration of migrants and the issue of ePass services ensures the seamless management of incoming migrants and travelers. Sachetak mobile applications and WhatsApp services are being utilized to create public awareness and gather real-time information on the cases. State COVID dashboard shares real-time information on COVID-19 data, and response measures. A health facility portal has also been created for monitoring the performance of COVID Hospitals.

In sum, as a politician, Naveen has been honourable, generous, open-minded, respectfully tolerant, exemplarily decent and humbly democratic. As a leader, he knows the way, shows the way and goes the way. With clarity, conviction, focus and actions, he has unlocked, nurtured and enhanced the people’s potential to get progressively better. In this world of strife and sorrow, there is the occasional window to feel thankful for something. We – Odishans – can feel grateful and rejoice on Naveen’s birthday for the fact that we lived these years at the turn of the 21st century and had the privilege of his leadership.

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