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When the news landed that the Naveen Patnaik government had started the process of bringing the iconic Dakota aircraft back from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar, many people across Odisha – particularly the historians and history buffs – were on cloud nine.

Because they immediately realised the significance of that development, knowing all too well why that aircraft is so iconic.

And now, of course, most people in the state have learnt that this is the same plane that the legendary Biju Patnaik had piloted with blinding deftness and incredible bravery in the year of India’s Independence to rescue Sutan Sjahrir, the then Vice President and Prime Minister of Indonesia, from colonial Dutch forces near Jakarta.

For the success of that historic mission, Biju babu was awarded the ‘Bhoomi Putra’ title – a recognition that Indonesia rarely bestows on foreigners – along with an honorary citizenship of the Southeast Asian country. Even decades after that, in 1995, as the Indonesians celebrated 50 years of their freedom, they honoured Biju babu’s invaluable contribution to it by giving him the Bintang Jasa Utama, their highest national award.

So it is only right that the Dakota aircraft, which belonged to Biju babu’s Kalinga Airlines, should finally return to Odisha where it will be showcased as a historical symbol of Odia pride beside the imposing statue of the state’s tallest leader at the Bhubaneswar Airport.

Apart from doing an exceptional job of preserving Odisha’s rich heritage and carrying forward his father’s great legacy, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has also been doing all the right things to secure a better future for his state.

At a time when Odisha is fighting hard to earn a slow but sure victory over the persistent second wave of Covid-19, there are well-founded fears of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic rearing up in India sooner than later. With many studies and reports suggesting that children are likely to be most affected by that wave, the five-time Chief Minister has already started marshalling all resources at his government’s disposal to ensure protection for children – the future – of the state.

Two days ago, while launching a training programme for doctors on paediatric care, he stated that his government had approved an action plan to have the necessary infrastructure, particularly equipment and medicines for paediatric patients, in place for Odisha and its healthcare professionals to be well-prepared for a possible third wave. The state government has already set up a massive network of government and private Covid hospitals across all districts, where people are receiving quality – and free – treatment.

Another shining example of the Chief Minister’s commitment towards all-round development in Odisha was evident in his administration’s decision to develop the Government College of Engineering in Keonjhar as a centre of excellence in earth science and technology. Over the coming three years, Odisha government will be investing around Rs 42.50 crore in the institute that will boast research facilities on a par with the prestigious Indian School of Mining in Dhanbad.

With all that the Chief Minister has been doing, his name will forever be etched – right beside his father’s – in the annals of Odisha’s history.

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