The Covid-19 pandemic has presented before the Odisha government the dual challenge of safeguarding public health and protecting the livelihood of its people. But Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has proved himself equal to the task despite the resource constraints faced by his government. While his commitment to the welfare of his people cannot be questioned, he also deserves praise for keeping the state’s economy on an even keel with excellent management of available resources.
Health facilities across the state have been upgraded and mass vaccination programme ramped up with a target of achieving at least three lakh shots per day. The Chief Minister has been simultaneously making plans for protecting the livelihoods of people belonging to different social groups. A good example of this is his recent announcement of a financial assistance package of Rs 11 crore for dairy farmers who were supplying milk to Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited (Omfed). The widely hailed decision will benefit about 1.2 lakh dairy farmers.
The Chief Minister, who had earlier relaxed lockdown restrictions for sweet shop owners across the state, took note of the fact that the pandemic had impacted the livelihoods of people in a big way. He has also kept in mind the plight of farmers and has been trying to help them through schemes such as KALIA under which a whopping Rs 6,690 crore have been spent so far on the welfare of farmers. The scheme has been lauded by economic experts as it seeks to empower farmers across categories without making them dependent on government loans.
The five-time Chief Minister has also taken up cudgels on behalf of the farmers who are demanding higher minimum support price (MSP) for paddy and other agricultural produce. Patnaik continues to campaign for the payment of MSP to farmers in tune with the recommendations of Swaminathan Committee which has made him the darling of the farming community.
Equally significantly, the Chief Minister launched livelihood schemes for migrant labourers, lakhs of whom had returned to the state from various parts of the country in the wake of the nationwide lockdown. Patnaik has been trying his best to ensure that these workers get jobs matching their skills in or around the areas they reside in. Though the more ambitious among these labourers have gone back to the states where they had been employed before the lockdown in the hope of earning more, those who have chosen to stay back are reaping the benefits of the schemes launched by Odisha government.
Always a compassionate leader, Patnaik has been caring for all sections of society and has made provisions even for feeding stray animals. He has sanctioned special funds for this purpose to the urban local bodies across the state. With a leader like him at the helm, it seems like Odisha can overcome any challenge.