Transparency and zero tolerance for corruption have been the key elements of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s good governance formula right from the beginning. But they seem to have assumed added importance for him in his fifth innings at the helm of state affairs. Keen to turn Odisha into a model state in waging war against corruption and ensuring cleanliness in public life, Patnaik recently asked people’s representatives – right from the level of sarpanch to ministers – to submit their property statements every year.
While addressing the Biju Janata Dal state council meeting, he said all people’s representatives – including sarpanches, block chairpersons, Zilla Parishad presidents, MLAs, ministers and the Chief Minister himself – will submit property statements every year and these will be put in the public domain and also sent to the Lokayukta. Government employees, right from entry level to the rank of Chief Secretary, will also have to submit these statements which will be open to public scrutiny.
This is a unique initiative, which will not only check corruption but also make public representatives and bureaucrats behave in a more responsible manner. Odisha will be the first state in the country to take such a step. By referring the property statements to the Lokayukta, the Chief Minister will also be ensuring that the anti-corruption ombudsman keeps a close watch on public representatives and members of the bureaucracy. Apart from adding to the credibility of the state government, the move will help strengthen the institution of Lokayukta.
Patnaik was emphatic about ramping up his campaign against graft. Stating that his government had launched a campaign against corruption from the very beginning, the five-time Chief Minister highlighted the exemplary action taken against officials found guilty of corrupt practices. The government has, so far, dismissed 91 officials from service on corruption charges and also stopped the pension of many.
Recently, a former minister and sitting MLA was arrested for alleged fraud and corruption and the Chief Minister promptly referred the charges against him to the Lokayukta in the interest of a fair probe. The action against the high-profile legislator came hard on the heels of arrest of a senior Indian Forest Service officer in connection with a disproportionate assets case following a string of raids by the state vigilance department both within and outside the state. The officer could not save himself despite his strong political clout as the government remains determined to wipe out corruption at all levels.
Patnaik’s policy of zero tolerance for corruption remains the most important factor behind his popularity and the success of his party in the elections. People are convinced that their Chief Minister will not hesitate in taking action against the corrupt irrespective of the power and position they enjoy. The Naveen Patnaik administration has proven time and again over the past 20 years that it does not discriminate between people in these matters and allows the law to take its course.
And there will be no letting up. If anything, there are signs that Patnaik’s war against corruption will only intensify in the future. Watch this space.