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In the world of governance and administration, especially in developing countries, it is one thing to make plans and promises, or set targets and goals – but quite another to realise those on the ground in an effective and timely manner. Such feats are rather difficult to achieve, as has been seen all too often in the history of India, but certainly not impossible.

That is exactly what the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) proved yesterday amidst a pandemic as Odisha’s capital became the first city in India to reach its Covid-19 vaccination target. After kicking off the world’s largest immunisation drive in mid-January this year, India had set a target of administering more than half a billion doses by July 31. Basing on Bhubaneswar’s population as per the 2011 census, the BMC had set a target of administering 18 lakh doses within the same time period.

While India reportedly missed the target, thanks in no small part to production and supply challenges over the past months, BMC Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Singh cut a satisfied figure when telling the press yesterday that Bhubaneswar had in fact accomplished the mission a day before the deadline.

Singh has good reasons to be pleased and the praise coming his way from all over is more than well-deserved. It was not as if Bhubaneswar did not face the challenges that the nation has on the way to meeting its vaccination targets, but it is no secret that the BMC Commissioner was extremely – and consistently – resourceful is finding ways to execute the vaccination drive in the most efficient way.

Under his meticulous supervision, the BMC was successful in customising its immunisation campaign to circumstances at hand.

When the state capital was in the thick of the pandemic, vulnerable groups (old-age homes, disabled people, beggars, etc.) as well as the potential spreader groups (bank staff, delivery boys, drivers, hotel and restaurant employees, among others) were promptly identified and vaccinated on a priority basis.

And when Bhubaneswar drew closer to saturation, the BMC opened up the walk-in option – with which people could simply visit vaccination centres without needing to book slots or register on CoWIN for their Covid jabs – to further step up the pace of vaccination.

This moment of pride for BMC and Bhubaneswar is also a glorious reflection of the Naveen Patnaik administration’s success in managing the Covid-19 pandemic across Odisha. It is a result of placing the right kind of officers in the right places, whether it be Singh as BMC Commissioner, Pradipta Mohapatra as Additional Chief Secretary of Health, or Pradeep Kumar Jena as Special Relief Commissioner – the list is long.

Therefore, even though the Government of Odisha’s revised unlock guidelines for this month of August have some long-awaited and delightfully welcome relaxations on lockdown restrictions – with the opening of shopping malls, cinema halls, parks and beaches even in Category B districts – they have all been kept conditional.

The decision to disallow unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adults to such recreational venues, the sustained prohibition on religious, political and marriage gatherings, or even the one on continuing night curfews and weekend shutdowns, in places such as Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri is all part of an extremely well-thought-out strategy to fully see off the persistent second Covid wave and minimise the possibility and intensity of a third one.

With a perfect mix of firmness, flexibility and foresight, the Naveen Patnaik administration and its fine officers are making not just Bhubaneswar but all of Odisha proud.

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