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A STEP OR TWO AHEAD

As the battle against coronavirus enters its final phase, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has already worked out his priorities to ensure that not only do the people of Odisha get to benefit the maximum from the much-awaited vaccination programme, but their livelihood needs are also taken care of properly.

With a nationwide vaccination programme likely to start soon, Patnaik has asked top officials to keep handy the necessary database for smooth conduct of the exercise in the state. Necessary logistical arrangements have also been made in this regard. A firm believer of the maxim “Well begun is half done”, he has always been ahead of his counterparts in other parts of the country on such matters.

He was the first Chief Minister of the country to initiate comprehensive precautionary measures in Odisha weeks before the pandemic hit the state. While officials were invested with special powers to deal with the situation, the state’s health infrastructure was strengthened sufficiently with country’s first exclusive COVID hospitals being set up in Odisha.

Thanks to these efforts, the situation on the COVID-19 front is now well under control in the state with the case graph showing a progressive downward trend. The COVID death rate, too, has declined significantly. However, even as the Chief Minister gets the state ready for the imminent vaccination programme, he has warned the people of Odisha against any kind of complacency.

In his latest COVID-19 review meeting, he asked people to strictly adhere to government’s guidelines even after the arrival of the vaccines. He considers such precautions necessary because the vaccination programme, even by the most optimistic estimates, would take around one year’s time in order to successfully do away with the threat of the virus.

While sero-surveys continue in different parts of the state, Patnaik has also emphasized the need for raising public awareness about the vaccination programme. This is important because some people appear to have misgivings about the otherwise much-awaited COVID-19 shots.

Patnaik has simultaneously been paying attention to the livelihood needs of people, especially the poor. He has warned banks that his government will take a serious view of their failure to make credit disbursements under different livelihood programmes launched to counter the impact of COVID-19. As it is, the state government has launched several livelihood programmes for farmers, members of Mission Shakti, MSME and others categories of people affected by the pandemic. Banks have been told to disburse adequate credit to the vulnerable groups to bail them out of the livelihood crisis triggered by the deadly virus.

Hence, the government considers it extremely important for banks to make credit disbursements to these livelihood programmes on time – and has made it amply clear that it will not tolerate any laxity on this account. The five-time Chief Minister has been successful in fighting the COVID crisis mainly because he always attached equal importance to the health and livelihood needs of the people. He always seemed to know better than the rest that the two things are inextricably intertwined.

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