By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, February 11, 2018: Political attitudes seem to be shifting in Odisha. Politics itself is turning into more voyeuristic if the Saturday’s dastardly attack on the residence of an official seeming close to chief minister Naveen Patnaik is any indication.

In first of its kind, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aided by disgruntled leaders of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) targeted Naveen’s private secretary, V Karthikeyan Pandian by vandalizing his official residence in his absence sparking off condemnation all around. The BJP cadres ransacked his premises, pelted stones, tossed cow dung all over, beat up the house staff and after hurling abusive words, kidnapped the sub inspector.

Very often, the decisive bureaucrats, who are the epitome of diligence and honesty, are subject to malicious campaigns by the vested interests to teach them a lesson and to rein them in or even as convenient scapegoats.

The BJP has largely failed in its role, showing a combination of tentativeness and timidity in attacking the Naveen Patnaik government. Part of the problem is that the saffron party believes that the Naveen-led BJD understands something about the mood of the electorate that it doesn’t. Issues that should have become flashpoints thus tend to be downplayed.

“BJP is adopting indirect assault on the CM by humiliating his aide. This only exposes lack of presenting democratic opposition to vital issues like politicization of bureaucracy and veiled ignorance of the CM,” remarked political scientist Surya Narayan Mishra.

Former chief secretary, Sahadeb Sahu condemned the vandalism at Pandian’s residence saying, “Targeting an official is not a political act. Political parties should refrain from such hooliganism and I strongly condemn ransacking of Pandian’s residence”.

BJP has been hard selling Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who had described the civil service as the “steel frame of government machinery”. He ensured that the civil service cadres and the system to choose them were made robust.

In democracy, power vests with the people and is exercised through its elected representatives who have the mandate to govern them for a specific period. The bureaucrats, for their sheer knowledge, skills and wide-ranging experience in and exposure to all domains of public affairs, assist the elected representatives in formulating policy and getting them implemented perfectly as they learn the practicable methods of saving time, money and labour.

The BJP’s allegation against the Naveen Patnaik government has been that the bureaucrats call the shots in Odisha. In fact, unlike the previous regimes, in the present BJP led NDA regime at the center; it is the bureaucrats who run the show and are more powerful than Cabinet Ministers. Officers in top Government positions are handpicked by key Modi aides who themselves are bureaucrats and wield tremendous influence in the corridors of power, according to a survey by Bureaucrat To-day.

The PM has been pressing the bureaucracy to take speedy decisions, promising that “honest decision-making with good intention would always be encouraged”. Modi has sought speeding of development work and good governance by the bureaucrats.

Incidentally, Pandian – the 2000 batch IAS officer has proved himself to be an upright officer and has earned kudos from the centre by getting two national awards for best district in NRGES in the country in his capacity as Ganjam Collector. He ensured payment of about Rs 100 crore as wages to NREGS workers through bank accounts and that time it was not only one of the highest in the country but also the first ever payment of wages through banks when it was not mandatory.

Pandian has set a classic example of good governance when he solved a century old land ownership issue for at least eight lakh people in Odisha. Gramkantaha Poramboke is a kind of land under Madras presidency which was land for communal use and was in occupation people for long. The same was the case for Abadi plots in western Orissa.

In the absence of pattas or entries in the record of rights, the people holding these plots were not able to avail of institutional finance for construction of house or other purposes by mortgaging the land.

On his proposal the Orissa Government Land Settlement Act of 1962 was amended in 2012 and land rights were issued to lakhs of people in the state. During his tenure in Ganjam, the district got National award for work in HIV.

Earlier when he was serving as sub-collector, Dharamgarh, he virtually became the darling of farmers as he ensured that the greedy miller pay minimum support price to them. In fact when his son was born during that period, the entire sub division and Dharamgarh town celebrated with crackers.

Mayurbhanj got national award for best district in rehabilitation of the disabled during his stint there – one of the rare bureaucrats to get the prestigious Helen Kellar award for working for disabled.

The 44 year old Pandian, a post graduate in plant physiology, has many success stories to his credit. But he seems to be sticking to what a crafty politician like Nelson Mandela had once stated that you can achieve much if you do not wish to take credit.

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