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By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, November 14, 2017: Taking a leaf out of prime minister Narendra Modi, the oft-reclusive Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik seems to have grabbed an occasion like Children’s Day to announce a slew of measures to apparently facilitate improvement in school education.

The state-level programme, held here was attended by more than 5,000 students from 24 schools and was live cast to over 65,000 government-run primary, upper primary and high schools, and other private TV and radio channels.

The timing of announcement of the measures is significant with the Bharaitya Janta Party [BJP] going hammer and tongues at the ruling Biju Janata Dal [BJD] with general elections scheduled in 2019. The BJP president Amit Sha has already launched a high-intensity campaign to garner “120+ seats in the state”. Both the parties face a do or die electoral battle for Bijepur Assembly constituency in western Odisha.

One of the major criticisms Patnaik faced is that he doesn’t know Odia, can’t speak few sentences in Odia and therefore should be ousted from power. Interestingly, Patnaik chose the occasion to speak in Odia and announced ‘Odia Bhasa Brutti Puraskar’ for the students scoring good marks in Odia subject in the annual Matric examination. As many as 10 students from each block of the state will get a cash award of Rs 5,000 each.

Patnaik reminded the students great contribution by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Odia leader Madhusudan Das, who as a child had repaired the road to his school and said today’s children must look up to the late leaders as their role model.

“You must study hard, remember your duties to your parents and to the village and your state when you grow up,” he said.

The chief minister announced Mukhya Mantri Medha Bruti (Chief Minister Meritorious Scholarship) for meritorious students scoring good marks in Matric exam. As many as 40,000 students of the state will get prize money of Rs 5,000 each. A total of 100 students from each block, 100 from each municipal corporation, 50 from each municipality and 20 students from each NAC will get the award. The scheme would also honour teachers and parents of the awardees, he added.

“Odisha has reached a certain level in most indicators. With our focus on quality education, we can take our state to the next level,” Patnaik said. He also interacted with children and sought feedback on the awards announced.

Among the other major announcements include cash award of Rs three lakh to the best three schools of each block and the amount will be distributed among the teachers of the respective schools.

Patnaik also announced a “Mo School” campaign wherein alumni of a school can volunteer and contribute for the betterment of their alma mater. Under this programme, whatever is contributed in terms of funds for development of schools, the state will contribute double the amount.

Initial corpus of Rs 100 crores has been announced for this initiative. More than 100 people signed up instantly as the patrons to contribute to the campaign.

However, the BJP accused Patnaik of using the kids as “pawns” in his political game. “Shame to the nikamma (useless) government. In 17 years of reign they couldn’t build roads to villages and are asking kids to repair it. The government that can’t pay its teachers but spends Rs 200 crore on such a function for self-promotion needs to be shown the door,” said BJP spokeswoman Lekhasri Samantsinghar.

The function witnessed various cultural programmes and performances by Prince Dance Group and Odisha Dance Academy. Indian Idol Junior winner Ananya Nanda and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs fame Satyajeet Jena also mesmerized the gathering with their singing performances.