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Odisha CM Patnaik eyes mass outreach through babus

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik has often faced criticism that he is inaccessible and his government is run by bureaucrats.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2018 23:05 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Surendra Kumar Meena,midday meal,Sundargarh
Sundargarh district collector Surendra Kumar Meena shares midday meal with students of a government school in Odisha.(HT Photo)

On July 24 , students of Amagobha upgraded high school in tribal-dominated Sundargarh district were in for a surprise. District collector Surendra Kumar Meena strolled in to take a mathematics class and later shared a midday meal with the students.

“We reaching out to people would ensure better service delivery and encourage people to demand better services,” said Meena, who early this week was spotted riding pillion to reach an inaccessible village of Sundargarh.

A 2012 batch Indian Administrative Service officer from Rajasthan, Meena earned praise last year when, as collector of Mayurbhanj district, he travelled to gram panchayats to hold meetings to address villagers’ grievances instead of summoning them to his office at Baripada town.

The proactive work being done by Meena and a dozen other district level officials in remote parts of Odisha follows criticism that chief minister Naveen Patnaik has often faced — that he is inaccessible and that his government is run by bureaucrats.

Former Biju Janata Dal MP Baijayant Panda had accused Patnaik of relying too heavily on civil servants and some other BJD leaders too have spoken about Odisha’s overarching bureaucracy. But bureaucrats like Meena appear to have delivered for Patnaik, who will be seeking a fifth term as chief minister in next year’s assembly polls and is relying again on civil servants .

In June last year, he asked district collectors to show team spirit and transparency in providing last-mile delivery of government services to the people. “I expect all the collectors to act as agents of change for the betterment of the government’s public service delivery mechanism where people are at the centre of governance,” Patnaik said at a conference of collectors.

BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said the collectors had taken the cue from the chief minister’s advice . “The transformational approach of the collectors is a result of the CM’s initiative,” said Patra.

Senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former MP from Bhubaneswar, Shibaji Patnaik, does not think much of initiative. He says the government is run by bureaucrats because the CM does not trust his ministers.

Former Congress state chief Prasad Harichandan said a few officers going out of their way to meet people does not mean Odisha is well governed. “The CM and his officials have failed to deliver,” he said.

Meena’s colleague and sub-collector of Bonei sub-division in Sundargarh, Dr. Yeddula Vijay, divides his time between treating patients at a community health centre and looking after his administrative work. He spends four morning hours at government healthcare institutions before going to his office.

Puri district collector Arvind Agarwal turned teacher while touring his district last month and taught students about the Ramayana and the morals the epic holds. In June, Gajapati collector Anupam Saha dropped by at Mahendragiri Municipal High School in Paralakhemundi town to teach geography to Class IX students.

In March, Kendrapara district collector Reghu G was leading a team of volunteers to clean squalor across the Gobari canal running through Kendrapara town. There are also instances of officials like Nuapada district collector Dr Poma Tudu, a doctor from Lady Hardinge Mecial College in Delhi, who trekked four kms to solve problems of tribals living on a hilltop village in Ranimunda gram panchayat.

Former Union coal secretary Prasanna Mishra said the officials the going extra mile was welcome. “It is to be expected from officers when they are young. But this should become a trend and should not be politicised,” he said.

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 23:05 IST