Naveen Patnaik is leaving little to no loopholes in his administration for the opposition to exploit in the coming elections
Despite the unavoidable challenges and unwarranted criticism that his government has faced in the wake of the devastating Cyclone Titli, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been going about business as usual.
It’s not as if he has not done enough to tide his state over the latest natural calamity that has claimed nearly five to six dozen lives and caused losses to the tune of around 2,200 crores.
From promptly setting up a dedicated panel to monitor rescue, relief and restoration efforts in the cyclone- and flood-hit districts of Odisha, to personally conducting an aerial survey of those areas, not to mention the pre-emptive evacuation of nearly three lakh people from areas across five districts of the state that were expected to bear the brunt of the cyclone – Patnaik had pulled out all the stops to minimise the sting of Titli.
However, as opposition parties continue to accuse his administration of being responsible for the casualties of the cyclone, the Biju Janata Dal boss has refused to engage in a war of words with them. Instead, he has been channelling his energies other issues – the ones that have always been integral to his vision for Odisha.
Start with industry.
In keeping with his government’s commitment towards making Odisha a more industry- and investment-friendly destination, with the ultimate goals of generating more employment, Patnaik recently called for more steel industries in the state during his address to the inaugural session of the “Conclave on Capital Goods for Steel Sector: Manufacture in India”.
“Over the past two decades, my government is focused on enhancing the production level of the key minerals along with manufacturing of value-added products in the state,” the chief minister was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying.
Then he revealed that his government was also bringing out a “Vision 2030” road map with the objective of enhancing the downstream infrastructure in the steel sector of the state in order to boost value addition.
Expressing hope that Vision 2030 would serve as the “blueprint for attracting downstream units in the steel sector” of Odisha, he also noted with visible satisfaction that his state had taken numerous measures over the past years to build up the necessary ecosystem for fast-track industrial development.
In fact, since Patnaik came to power at the turn of the millennium, Odisha’s port handling capacity has risen 10 times to reach 190 million metric tonnes (MT) per annum, power generation capacity has also increased by 300%, and road network has risen by over 50 per cent – all of which prove that the state has become far more conducive to the growth of the steel industry.
Moving on to sports, an area in which the Chief Minister is killing more than two birds with one stone.
As Odisha gets set to host the Men’s Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar later this month, Naveen has been personally involved. From welcoming Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to attend it, to promoting it on megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s ever-popular KBC show, to ensuring that the entire state capital is beautified with Hockey World Cup-themed murals, Naveen has been ensuring that the event is not only a well-organised one but also a runaway success.
It has not been all about hockey, though.
Late last month, on October 26, the Chief Minister opened the Asia Rugby Sevens’ U-18 Girls Championship at Kalinga Stadium. A dozen countries – India, Hong Kong, China, UAE, Philippines, Laos, Qatar, Nepal, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand – took part in what was the first ever international age-grade rugby tournament hosted in the country.
Naveen seems to have long realised, better than most other political leaders of the present or past, that sport plays an important role in nation-building, character-building and keeping the spirits of a society high with its immense entertainment value. This perspective has also raised his popularity among the masses in general and the youth in particular.
Besides, by successfully hosting to so many international sporting events over the past few years, the Naveen Patnaik administration has undoubtedly and exemplarily raised Odisha’s profile nationally and internationally.
The Chief Minister has been working towards achieving similar objectives in other ways, too.
Earlier last month, on the 141st birth anniversary of ‘Utkalmani’ Gopabandhu Das, Naveen laid the foundation stone for Odia University in Puri district (where the legendary poet and social reformer was born).
The prime objective behind the establishment of such a university is nationwide promotion of the Odia language. The university will offer post-graduate studies and offer research opportunities in Odia language and literature.
In keeping with the times, the the Odisha government also recently launched a web portal – Odia Virtual Academy (www.ova.gov.in) – that will be responsible for promotion, preservation and digitisation of Odia language and literature at the international level.
Revealing that his government has signed three memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with the University of Chicago Library, C-DAC and Centre for Internet and Society, Bengaluru, respectively, to pace up the digitisation of Odia literature and develop the necessary software for that, Naveen expressed confidence that the portal will enhance the visibility of Odia language, literature and culture in the international digital space.
So far 170 books of Odia literature have already been uploaded and are ready to use on the OVA website.
On the same day, the Chief Minister also inaugurated, through videoconferencing, six Septage Treatment Plants (STPs) in as many cities – Bhubaneswar, Berhampur, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Dhenkanal and Puri – across the state at a National Workshop on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management.
With Naveen ticking all the right boxes, and the opposition can only hope for divine intervention to prevent the BJD government from coming to power once again next year.