By Biswaraj Patnaik in Puri, January 30, 2019: Gita Patnaik turned down Padmashree rightly. The award is so horribly devalued that even ordinary achievers, unless they are make believe ones, chose to look away from that ‘Padma’.

Quite sometime ago, a low grade movie actor called Saif Ali Khan, with a terrible reputation of having beaten up a South African tourist at the Taj Hotel of Mumbai, and killing a most endangered species black buck in Rajasthan during a film shoot, too was given a ‘Padmashree’- God knows who in the UPA government recommended his name. He had also divorced the first wife to marry later actress Kareena Kapoor to be blessed with a baby son who he named Taimur which has hurt many Indians including Muslims for, in history, that’s the name of a hated plunderer from Central Asia, who caused grave damage to undivided India by way of looting and murdering the peaceful Indians of that era.

There was a huge and cry against Saif Ali getting the ‘Padma’ so much so as to force the authorities to ask the award back from that ‘black buck’ killer. For all this when they chose the world famous Gita Patnaik for the same small award, she turned down, though citing a very acceptable and logical reason of this time being sensitive as elections are around and his brother is a frontline statesman of India. She never talked of the award being of smaller value than she deserves.

This is feasting time for the media as it keeps reporting trends of ‘mass mood’, though mostly based on crap logic, except a very few who have the gear and the works to see through. The rest all keep stealing ideas and stories to remain live and make hay as the sun keeps shining bright. Most Indian states are still a hazy picture by way of outcome, except Odisha which nearly all pollmasters agree will witness Naveen Patnaik occupying the pilot’s seat yet again.

The reason is simple: The so called powerful BJP hasn’t even sprouted well let alone grow up as deep-rooted trees; and the unfortunate Congress party hasn’t done much to regain lost popularity. They had never been glorious in Odisha during the long-ruling Janaki Ballav Patnaik stint. Janaki was a smart operator who knew the art of manipulation and machination just too well. But the ones he left behind are evidently pinheads- the leading ones being excessively self-serving or downright jealous of one another. Odisha Congress is only an idea at the present, an abstract thing in the minds of the masses.

The BJP is frighteningly impoverished on the charismatic leadership front. Not a single soul whom people love to follow, though lately a former lady bureaucrat has materialised to bring a tiny amount of credibility to the saffron fold. Dharmendra Pradhan, the Union minister seems to be afraid of the

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articulate woman as she is likely to overshadow him on charisma and mass following. There is not one third soul to come to mind as of now.

Naveen landed in Odisha as politician in 1997 when he was only fifty with a great deal of vigour and sincerity. When he took over Odisha as chief minister, the state was infamous for the highest poverty level at 59 per cent of the population with Kalahandi being the darkest spot. By 2012, poverty level was down to almost half – 32.5 per cent – the highest rate of reduction among all Indian states.

Under Naveen, Odisha’s GDP grew at an average of 6.66 per cent annually and sustainably so. Per capita income grew six fold touching Rs 66,890 last year. Odisha had to imported rice from Punjab and Haryana until 2000. Now it has surplus rice exported to the rest of the country. Its anti-poverty programmes women welfare schemes are considered national models now.

The huge 22 per cent tribal population has been literally mainstreamed by now with fantastic road connectivity, better housing, electricity, education and skill development facilities. In disaster management, Odisha is looked upon as the world master. In 2013 when, the severe cyclone Phailin swept over the coast, the disaster team evacuated one million people with virtually no casualty. There has been rapid industrial growth with massive external investments in diversified sectors.

Naveen plunged into the quagmire politics with the sole aim of turning the filth and slime of the quagmire into delightfully playable green turf. He admits that he knew very little about the statecraft, but he is always willing to learn. Elder sister Gita says that her little brother is the same daredevil as late father, but, Naveen’s visual profile remains mindbogglingly low on purpose as is his innate nature.

J B Patnaik, the former Chief Minister had left behind a state devastated by poverty, corruption and mafia dons. Naveen confesses he encountered rogue ministers and bureaucrats who were despicably obsequious in behaviour as their only objective was to make easy ‘kill or loot’. Naveen cleansed the ‘Augean stables’ first and foremost. The appalling poverty all around depressed him no end . Thus, he set out with both a political astuteness and a ruthlessness that stunned the closest people. Naveen shut out his lifelong Delhi life and his feudal moorings once for all. Life’s journey was charted afresh with a vision of turning the state around. He set focus on setting right the finances and anti-poverty programmes.

People know too well how fanatically against corruption he was. He sacked ministers and fixed bureaucrats if he felt any wind of misdemeanour on any front. He used the best brains to get his job done- be them former bureaucrats or a career politicians. All that he ensured was the required skill and resilience were not in dearth. He was keen that the state administration was and appeared more transparent than before.

So, he used technology to put all government files and tenders online including a tracking system where the public could find out where exactly the file was held up. He also displayed a big heart while evolving development programmes. A nine-month pregnant woman working as a labourer moved him so much as to initiate the ‘Mamata’ scheme to provide both monetary and medical help to take care of new mothers.

Similarly, tribal children became close to heart and residential schools and many other empowering facilities have come in place for the first time in India. Most importantly he held frequent reviews and personally monitored the major programmes pulling up those who didn’t deliver. When district collectors were unable to utilise the funds to dig tube wells for drinking water because of technical manpower shortage, Patnaik ordered that the engineering department staff in each district be made accountable to the collector rather than just to the chief engineer ensuring greater coordination between them.

His frugal lifestyle ensures that he has a squeaky clean reputation though some of his ministers and MLAs are now dogged with charges of scandals and scams. He admits happily that the lessons of the office have taught him to be “attentive to the requirements of the people, to always keep his ears open to their problems and try to deal with them as effectively as he can.

The BJP government in Gujarat is contrastingly erring like crazy. The Modi brand is loosing steam and charm as the administration is splurging scarce public money on fanciful projects and schemes. First they spent three thousand crore rupees on a statue of Sardar Patel which even the soul of Sardar is not likely to appreciate. Lately they are playing rough and havoc with nature. As the country celebrated its 70th year as a free republic, an endangered species in Gujarat had its freedom taken away when the forest department in the state swooped on them to start a mass capture programme. The natural habitat is being denied to a rare species of crocodiles to facilitate sea plane landing to transport tourists to the are of the statue. Environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta says every rule in the book is being violated in moving a Schedule I species out of their habitat.

The Indian Mugger is on Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, which means it has been accorded the highest level of protection under India’s laws. The Gujarat government has ordered for more than 500 crocodiles to be removed, as they are coming in the way of seaplanes landing near the multi-crore Statue of Unity that was recently constructed at the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

Romulus Whitaker, a well-known crocodile expert who is also a member of the IUCN crocodile specialist group and set up the famous Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, fears that this effort could in fact lead to further conflict, if not conducted in a scientific manner under the supervision of experts. He condemned the move stating “It’s a disgrace to relocate crocodiles from their home in the homeland of the goddess Khodiyar.

This will not solve the problem; many crocodiles will die and trans locating them will simply cause problems elsewhere. I’m sure the Central Government has not given the necessary permission to Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act.” No wonder then that Naveen is a more sympathetic person than the ones who have squandered public money on a fanciful object and hurting nature to turn a rare crocodile habitat into play field of insane tourists and politicians.

2019 elections are more likely to bring back the BJD with a respectable number of seats unless the BJP mends ways panIndia.

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