As Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik continues to lead concerted efforts to see through the painfully slow recession of the deadly second coronavirus wave in Odisha, his government has demonstrated laudable flexibility in making life easier for the most vulnerable and the worst affected.
This was well evident in the announcement of a well-thought-out relaxation of lockdown restrictions across the state a couple of days ago. While the government was clearly compelled to extend its partial lockdown until next month in view of the relatively high number of daily cases and deaths in a third of its 30 districts, it still managed to allow more small businesses and important services to open up, apart from significantly extending the limited operating hours of others, in its 10 ‘Category B’ districts.
Another important instance was the government’s recent announcement about reopening both public and private schools for Class 10 and 12 students from July 26 onwards. The decision was taken in no small part to the inconvenience that students from rural and remote areas faced during online classes due to poor network. After all, as school and mass education principal secretary Satyabrata Sahu revealed in a press conference yesterday, the government is only able to reach 40% of students across the state through online teaching while the remaining majority of them get left behind.
Yet the government has wisely left it to district collectors to take the final decision on reopening of schools based on their reading of the pandemic situation in their respective districts. Showing similar sensibility, the government has not made it compulsory for all students to attend classes. Only those wishing to attend physical classes may come, with no penalty whatsoever for those choosing to continue studying from the safety of their homes.
However, all schools will have to strictly adhere to Covid-19 safety guidelines as per the comprehensive SOP (standard operating procedures) that it will issue ahead of their opening – just as other shops, businesses and services across the state must follow their respective pandemic-related SOPs if they wish to remain operational.
While being intelligently and compassionately flexible on these fronts, the Naveen Patnaik administration has become increasingly firmer on the law-and-order front, as seen from a series of developments across the state over the past few days.
Four persons were arrested yesterday as the Odisha police seized Rs 1 Crore worth of brown sugar during an enforcement drive in Bhadrak district. On the same day, the state police also cracked a fake Indian Railways job posting racket while conducting investigations into a kidnapping case.
A day earlier, the state’s GST enforcement wing busted a racket that had issued fake invoices worth Rs 641 crore, as two were arrested on charges of availing and passing fraudulent input tax credit (ITC) to the tune of Rs 115.10 crore.
Taking a serious view of rising traffic accident deaths in the state, the government is also close to enacting a Road Safety Act and appoint a senior IAS or IPS officer to ensure its effective on-the-ground implementation.
All this, while our five-time Chief Minister continues to keep Odisha at the forefront of the nation’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether it be through his push – at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest Covid review meeting with state CMs – for an early rollout of vaccines for the 12-18 age group or through his demand to the Centre for higher allocation of vaccines to Odisha’s government hospitals.
We could not have asked for a better approach to deal with the second Covid-19 wave.