BY VIVEK PATTANAYAK IN BHUBANESWAR, JULY 16, 2017 : When one reads cover story on Odisha chief minister, Naveen Patnaik on news magazine India Today (July 3, 2017) titled THE NAVEEN MYSTIQUE one gets a fair idea as to how economy of Odisha has fared in last two decades.

Despite the fact the State is under a local party (called sometime as a regional party), with no obvious and ostensible support from the Centre beyond the normal and usual assistance either under NDA or UPA, the State has tackled the natural disasters very effectively getting international adulation, has reduced infant mortality visibly and substantially, and has been able to export rice and getting national award for agriculture.

In the health sector, there has been a visible sign of growth of private hospitals. Public hospitals, dispensaries and health centres have increased and rural areas are served by mobile ambulance service. In the field of education, private institutions have mushroomed which include universities although doubt persists about quality of education at the primary and secondary level.

A recent economic study shows that inequality measured by the Gini co-efficiency has reduced. It is worth reading the work done by economists of national and international repute like Prof. Prashant Pattnaik, Prof. Panda and Prof. Pulin Nayak, and Prof. Prabhat Patnaik to appreciate how Odisha has done in the economic and social sectors. Financial health has vastly improved since the beginning of the century.

Tata Steel Plant at Kalinganagar

Although POSCO could not establish the world’s biggest steel plant for reasons already mentioned in my article “Why POSCO failed”, Odisha’s achievement in establishing industries has been laudable with Kalinganagar having ultra-modern steel industry under Tata Steel, and setting up of several different steel plants around the same place, and between Cuttack and Angul.

In addition, there have been establishment of many aluminium plants despite obstacles in allocation of dedicated mines, especially to Vedanta whose promoter deserves all the kudos for his remarkable patience, laudable optimism and praiseworthy positive spirit. In power sector, thermal power generation capacity has given Odisha surplus status. Solar power stations have come up to support the grid. More are likely to come with house top solar units.

In transport sector, the rural connectivity has made a spectacular achievement. Even the highways have improved. Rail system is making impressive progress with new trains and construction of new broad-gauge lines even replacing narrow gauge although it could have been much better.

In air transport Bhubaneswar has become an international airport with direct connections to foreign destination like Kualalumpur through Air Asia and to other destinations over New Delhi through Air India. Jharsuguda will soon have a developed airport with facilities for A320 and B737. The study of E&Y suggests possibilities of setting up 17 airports based on erstwhile airfields of the time of the British time and Maharajahs and 16 heliports.

In maritime field, Dhamra port came up within an expected time frame and Gopalpur port was made functional after a long effort. Astaranga and Kirtania have potentialities of serving the hinterland very well.

Notwithstanding these attainments, poverty continues to be phenomenal, agriculture does not attract rural youth, unemployment is a serious threat to social stability, law and order is a big concern, and leftist movement needs to be handled deftly.

What should be the strategy for next two decades? Agriculture should be made profitable to dissuade young to leave for cities. This would require further review of land tenure system to consider land consolidation, prevention of fragmentation, updating of land records using modern technology.

Encouragement of commercial crops, introduction of modern agronomical practices, provision of irrigation through rainwater harvesting structures, promoting dry-land farming, construction and improvement of rural roads to give market access, agricultural warehouses, cold storage facilities, strengthening of rural cooperative banking system, promotion of agro-based industries and rural tourism will have to be given serious emphasis.

MSME sector has not received the fillip it deserves for a long period although it gives tremendous employment opportunity, contributes substantially to GDP and it is a robust foreign exchange earner. IPICOL and OSFC should be resuscitated by declaring them Non-Banking Financial Companies in coordination with RBI and obtaining linkage with MUDRA.

Tourism must be vigorously promoted by encouraging construction of hotels at sea fronts, places in proximity to Chilka Lake, at the hill stations to be identified respecting environment, forests and aboriginal people. Airports should be constructed either through Airport Authority of India, or through private investment or in joint ventures.

Law and order both in the rural and urban areas should be given top priority. Police force should be strengthened and equipped with modern outfit. To quote Aristotle, “State comes into being for life and continues for good life”. Unless internal security is guaranteed there is no scope for“ease of doing business”.

This should go along with judicial reform to give speedy justice. Justice delayed is justice denied. Institutional reforms like decentralization and delegation, simplification of procedures using information technology, updating of existing laws within existing constitutional structure like Panchayat Raj system would yield tremendous results simultaneously encouraging civil service to be decisive without fear and favour. More work on the ground and less slogans will increase credibility.