SPECIAL FEATURE: Odisha

Naveen Odisha: State witnesses transformation under CM Naveen Patnaik

Print edition : May 14, 2022

Naveen Patnaik, Biju Janata Dal president and Odisha Chief Minister, at the closing ceremony of the party’s Prasikhana Sibira (observers’ training) in Bhubaneswar on July 30, 2017. Photo: BISWARANJAN ROUT

Odisha’s Kalahandi district, as the Chief Minister has said, is no longer a laboratory of poverty but a rice bowl and a model of development. Here, paddy fields on the outskirts of Bhawanipata in Kalahandi. Photo: BISWARANJANROUT

Under Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s stewardship, Odisha has transitioned from a backward State into a thriving development laboratory with remarkable progress in terms of human development indices.

On the evening of the Odia New Year Day on April 14, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was in a jubilant mood as he unveiled the official logo of the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Odisha will host the prestigious tournament from January 13 to 29 in 2023.

“It's an honour and delight for me to unveil the logo of the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup for the second consecutive time,” he said. “As the countdown begins, I welcome the world to witness yet another fine spectacle of hockey,” he added.

The 15th edition of the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup will be staged in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela. The country's largest hockey stadium with a seating capacity of 20,000 is being constructed in Rourkela. Hockey India and Odisha will host the marquee event for the second time in the country after successfully conducting the event at the Kalinga Stadium in 2018.

In many ways, the story of Indian hockey in recent years—especially the steadily improving performance of the men’s and women’s national teams, repeatedly touching global standards of excellence—could well be a metaphor for the State of Odisha and the dynamic “new age governance” that it has attained under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik and his party, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD).

A few years ago, the national hockey teams were desperately seeking respectable sponsorships from established institutions and government organisations, without much success. The Odisha government then stepped in with adequate funds and sponsored the men and women’s teams. It recently announced that its sponsorship would continue until 2033, ensuring steady support for the teams. Odisha has also been building state-of-the-art infrastructure for hockey. Stalwarts of Indian hockey, including current and former players, have unanimously emphasised that the enviable record of both the national teams in recent years is directly linked to this support. No wonder that Naveen Patnaik appeared especially happy as he unveiled the logo of the FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup.

This is just one example of the progress Odisha is witnessing in a quiet and non-triumphal way under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik for over two decades now.

A sea change

Naveen Patnaik assumed office as Chief Minister at a time when coastal Odisha was in a shambles in the aftermath of the 1999 super cyclone. Millions of people were in need of relief and rehabilitation. The State’s economy was also in a precarious condition. The situation has undergone a sea change since then. The State that was earlier known for its backwardness has been rated by international monitoring agencies as one of the advanced States in fighting natural disasters.

Learning from its experience of handling frequent cyclones, floods and droughts, the government started adopting a zero-casualty approach in the event of natural disasters. Evacuating lakhs of people from coastal areas and providing them safe shelter ahead of cyclones has helped prevent loss of human lives in as many as seven cyclones since the super cyclone.

From planning to action

Patnaik (75), who started his political career after the death of his father, Biju Patnaik, in 1997, has been working silently to script the success story for Odisha. His first stint as Chief Minister was marked by proactive and detailed planning, which resolutely underscored the government’s intention to establish a positive, welfare model of governance. Following this planning stage in the first two years (2000-2002), the government moved to a proactive action mode that covered almost all realms of life, according to the bureaucrats, technocrats and academics who have worked closely with the Chief Minister.

They point out that Naveen Patnaik has stuck to this proactive mode through five consecutive terms as Chief Minister. He worked steadily and steadfastly to realise his dream of a new Odisha that would meet the aspirations of its people by transforming the State in various spheres, be it the welfare of vulnerable sections of society or promotion of sports.

Odisha is one of the fastest growing States in the country at present, boasting a growth rate much higher than the country’s GDP growth rate of 8.8 per cent. Its per capita income grew by 16.8 per cent in 2020-21. The average growth of per capita income over the last 10 years has been 10.3 per cent, against the national average of 9.15 per cent.

Kalahandi’s transformation

The government’s prudent financial management over the years has resulted in a significant reduction in poverty. The rate of poverty, which stood at 57 per cent in 2005-06, had come down to around 24 per cent to 32.61 per cent in 2011-12. According to the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) 2021 of NITI Aayog, Odisha’s MPI score is 0.136 against the country’s 0.118. In terms of headcount ratio, 29.35 per cent of the population in Odisha is identified as multidimensionally poor, which places Odisha ahead of all other States in composite fiscal performance index. In terms of reduction in MMR (maternal mortality ratio), Odisha has been performing better than other States. It is also performing better in dealing with wasting and stunting of children.

A year after Naveen Patnaik became Chief Minister in 2000, the Kashipur block in Rayagada district hit the headlines following the death of at least 20 people who had consumed gruel made of mango kernel. Rayagada was adjacent to Kalahandi district, which in the past was depicted across the globe as a symbol of hunger and stark poverty. The scene has changed dramatically. “Kalahandi is no longer a laboratory of poverty but a rice bowl and a model of development,” Naveen Patnaik said in January 2021 while inaugurating an irrigation project in the district that was expected to benefit over three lakh farmers across 25,275 hectares. “Kalahandi alone supplies as much rice as the combined quantity of 10 States to the central treasury. All this has been possible because of the strong will of the farmers of Kalahandi and the strong will of the people,” he said.

When Kashipur was in the news for all the wrong reasons, the government ensured that families living below the poverty line received 16 kg of rice at Rs.4.75 a kg every month. The scenario changed gradually across the State, and there have been no starvation deaths for many years now.

Along with the expansion of the food security programme, the State government took on extra financial burden, over and above the subsidy that the Centre pays, to make rice available to the poor at low prices by launching the ‘Rs.2 a kg rice’ scheme on August 1, 2008. The price of rice was further lowered to Re.1 a kg from February 2013. Naveen Patnaik did not stop there. His government launched a food security scheme on October 2, 2018, to benefit 25 lakh people who were left out of the National Food Security Act. “On Gandhi Jayanti, launched Odisha’s own food security scheme to benefit 25 lakh vulnerable populace that were excluded from coverage; sufficient and nutritious food is a basic need and prerequisite for a healthy Odisha, as a part of our resolve to eradicate hunger in Odisha,” he said in a tweet after launching the scheme.

Augmenting revenue generation

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Odisha was considered one of the most fiscally stressed among all general category States. The State’s debt–GSDP ratio in 2002-03 was 50.73 per cent, compared with the national average of about 34 per cent. The liquidity position was in bad shape and treasuries were virtually closed for most days; the State barely managed to disburse its employees’ salaries.

The turnaround was made possible by augmenting revenue generation and rationalising expenditure as per the terms and conditions of the MoUs signed with the Centre, first in 1999 and then in 2001. The revenue augmentation measures included introduction of taxes on professions in 2000, introduction of VAT (value-added tax) in 2005, use of IT-based tools in tax administration for improving compliance, periodic revision of rates of various tax and non-tax revenues and monthly reviews of revenue collection.

The government enacted the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act in 2005, following the recommendations of 12th Finance Commission and subsequently made necessary amendments to the FRBM Act as per the recommendations of 13th and 14th Finance Commissions. The State has adhered to all the parameters envisaged in the FRBM Act every year since then. Further, there has been a decline in the average cost of borrowing from 12.6 per cent in 1999-2000 to about 6.7 per cent in 2020-21. The debt stock/GSDP ratio, which was as high as 50.73 per cent in 2002-03, has been brought down to 20.5 per cent in 2020-21 against the target level of 25 per cent. The State’s revenue deficit was as high as 5.38 per cent of the GSDP in 1999-2000. However, it could achieve revenue surplus after a gap of 22 years in 2005-06 and has been maintaining a revenue surplus so far.

As a green initiative, the State has reduced physical printing of budget documents from 500 sets to 200 sets and now distributes budget documents electronically to stakeholders. The result: a reduction in the number of printed pages by 57 lakhs, which means that about 700 large trees are saved. The State intends to switch over to complete paperless electronic budgeting in the coming years.

Road communication across the State has improved. The once backward district of Malkangiri, which had a strong Maoist presence, now boasts better roads and hospitals with good infrastructure. As law and order remains under control, the activities of Left-wing extremists have also seen a remarkable decline.

Empowering women, farmers

Empowerment of women has been one of the key development initiatives of the Naveen Patnaik government. The Mission Shakti programme that he launched in 2001 has more than six lakh Women’s Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) with over 70 lakh as members.

As the Mission gained strength, a separate Directorate was created under the Department of Women and Child Development. Subsequently, a separate Mission Shakti Department was created in 2021 to help strengthen the initiatives undertaken by different government agencies and bring them on one platform to ensure greater focus.

Apart from providing the seed money and revolving fund for the WSHGs, facilitating credit linkages, implementing interest subvention schemes and ensuring market linkage to SHG products, the State has handed over all unused government properties in panchayats to the SHGs federated under the Mission to use these for social and economic uplift of the area. The government had also roped in the WSHGs for providing cooked food to migrant workers returning home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has taken proactive measures to help small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers and sharecroppers under the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme by providing them financial assistance. There have been no major farmers’ agitation since the scheme was launched in January 2019, and the scheme has provided financial security to the beneficiaries, who have stopped going to moneylenders for loans. A sum of Rs. 1,874 crore has been earmarked for the KALIA scheme in the Budget for 2022-23.

The Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY), a smart health card scheme that came into effect in September 2021, is expected to benefit about 3.5 crore people. It provides families with annual cashless health-care coverage of up to Rs.5 lakh, while women are eligible for an annual cover of up to Rs.10 lakh. The beneficiaries can avail themselves of health-care services in about 200 hospitals across the country.

Odisha is a frontrunner in strengthening the Panchayati Raj institutions. Naveen Patnaik increased reservation of seats for women in PRIs to 50 per cent from the 33 per cent mandated by his father, the late Biju Patnaik. He has also reserved 50 per cent seats for women in the urban local bodies. His Janata Dal reserved 33 per cent of Lok Sabha seats in the State for women in the 2019 elections.

Battling Covid-19 at the grass roots

When COVID struck, Odisha declared the pandemic a disaster from the beginning. It involved the gram panchayats in battling the pandemic and bestowed sarpanches with the powers of a District Collector to deal with the situation when cases started increasing with the return of Odia migrant workers from other States. The sarpanches in 6,798 gram panchayats worked dedicatedly in the management of quarantine centres and other COVID-care institutions after the State government accorded front-line warrior status to them and announced Rs.50 lakh as compassionate assistance for family members if any sarpanch died in the pandemic.

COVID-19 treatment was provided free of cost. As many as 57 COVID hospitals and 46 COVID-care centres were set up in different parts of the State with 6,673 beds and 2,544 ICU beds. The number of total tests done was 3,12,00,012 until the third week of April this year, with 95.87 per cent testing negative and 4.13 per cent testing positive. Of the 12,87,998 persons who had tested positive, 12,78,737 had recovered while 9,124 had died and 84 were undergoing treatment as on April 25.

Slum-free cities

The State has been taking drastic measures to make all the urban centres slum-free through the Jaga Mission. The transformation of all slums into liveable habitats is being achieved through a range of interventions by provisioning for in-situ and heritable land rights, in-situ upgradation of all slums with nine basic infrastructure components, and rehabilitation of slums from environmentally hazardous locations to well-planned new habitats created at suitable places.

According to the 2011 Census, 23.09 per cent of the urban population of the State — almost 500,000 households — was living in slums in 114 urban local body areas without any security of tenure. In 2017, the State passed the Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Act in recognition of slum dwellers’ contribution to the cities’ economy. This landmark piece of legislation, which aims to benefit every landless person who lives in a slum in municipalities and notified area councils, is the first of its kind in the country.

The Jaga Mission is being implemented in all the 2,938 slums in 114 urban local bodies. A total of 1.75 lakh families were given land rights under the scheme and 585 slums were converted into model colonies, said Naveen Patnaik while addressing newly elected Mayors and chairpersons of ULBs, on urban governance and initiatives on March 25 this year.

Naveen Patnaik has also announced that the MUKTA (Mukhyamantri Karma Tatpara Abhiyan) Yojana, which was started by the State government during the COVID-19 pandemic for the urban poor and migrant workers, will continue. A provision of Rs. 500 crore has been made for the scheme in the 2022-23 budget.

The expansion of the infrastructure for supply of drinking water had not kept pace with the rate of urbanisation of the State. Poor service coverage, intermittent supply and high-water losses were the predominant challenges. To address the problem, the government now places greater stress on improving the level of urban drinking water services with easier and equitable access for all categories of people. The investments in the urban water supply sector have increased by about 20 times in recent years. With universal coverage almost achieved, the government has moved into higher orbits in drinking water supply with Mission Drink from Tap. The mission has been implemented in Puri and is being expanded to cover 20 other urban centres.

Odisha’s mining sector has started generating substantial revenue. While around 61,000 workers were employed directly in major mineral activities, as per the estimates available up to December 2021, total mineral revenues in 2020-21 was Rs.32,485 crore (provisional). The jump in mineral revenue allows the State to direct spending towards developmental purposes.

Moreover, being in power for the fifth consecutive term has helped Naveen Patnaik execute a successful transformation process, making Odisha an empowered State by allowing freedom to the bureaucracy and making governance transparent. The transformation is visible in all corners—be it community health centres, schools or the major religious centres that attract a large number of pilgrims and tourists.