On Tuesday, the government of Naveen Patnaik created a new department called Mission Shakti to govern 6 women’s self-help groups (SHGs) of around lakh in the state which became the largest vote bank of Biju Janata Dal (BJD ) of Patnaik two decades later it started as a program in 2001. Mission Shakti was transformed into leadership in 2017 until it was incorporated on June 1 as a separate department with a secretary at its head.
“This is a historic step for the Naveen Patnaik government in empowering women … Mission Shakti department would lead to greater inclusion of women in Odisha development,” tweeted top BJD leader Pranab Prakash Das. , referring to the female members of 70 lakh. SHGs, which take loans from banks and provide small loans to their members.
While a new department will likely result in a separate budget for self-help groups starting in the next fiscal year, political observers are unsure whether it will transform their operation on the ground or turn into another exercise of ” renaming ”aimed only at producing political dividends.
“As part of the Shakti Mission, the women members of the self-help groups may have been empowered financially, but has anyone checked to see if the self-help groups create tangible assets? Most of the loans given to SHG members are used to cover household expenses such as child rearing, marriage, and husband’s affairs. I don’t understand how having a separate department would lead to better governance, ”asked retired bureaucrat Prasanna Mishra.
Over the past few years, the Odisha CM has created or renamed at least half a dozen departments and buildings, including the Secretary of State which is now called Lok Seva Bhavan, suggesting that service to people was his reason of being. At the height of the farmer suicides in Odisha in 2015-16, he renamed the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Agriculture and Farmer Empowerment. In December 2017, he split the Tourism and Culture Department and created a separate Odia Language and Culture Department to promote the Odia language. A few years ago, the planning and coordination department was renamed the planning and convergence department while the revenue department became the income and disaster management department. Three days ago, his government renamed the forestry and environment department to the forestry, environment and climate change department.
“It’s nothing more than [a] delusional activity. The name game is just for fooling people. From Garibi Hatao in the 80s to Mo Sarkar today, most of these names don’t convey anything to anyone. The worst part is that the poor and the middle classes do not protest against the government driving them away, ”said sociologist Rita Ray.
Political science professor Gyana Ranjan Swain said the naming and renaming exercise is essentially how Patnaik leaves a legacy behind. “After leading the state for 21 years, he surely wants to leave his mark. Creating new departments is a good move to decentralize power, but does he really intend to do it, ”Swain asked.
Many others, like the former bureaucrat Prasanna Mishra, see it as Naveen Patnaik’s tactic to put on a big show without delivering anything on the pitch. Mishra points out that Odisha is actually ranked at the bottom of the governance rankings, along with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the Public Affairs Index (PAI) -2020 released by the Center for Public Affairs, a Bangalore-based nonprofit organization last year, Kerala topped a composite index reflecting sustainable development, while Odisha and Bihar scored negative points of -1,201 and -1,158 points respectively.
Former Finance Minister Panchanan Kanungo agrees that the creation of a new department is nothing more than a gimmick. “After having created a separate department for the Odia language in December 2017, an Odia university was supposed to [be] set up at Satyabadi in Puri district with facilities for higher education in Odia. There remains a non-starter. All stores and commercial establishments in the state were supposed to display signs in the Odia language, but this did not happen. It’s about repackaging old wine in a new bottle, ”he said.
BJD general secretary Bijay Nayak disagrees, however. “Contrary to the slogan of the BJP of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, the creation of new departments and initiatives like Mo Sarkar and 5T is transforming governance. If it had not been so, how does Naveen Patnaik win the election after the election, ”Nayak asked.
Patnaik kicked off the 5T agenda – technology, transparency, teamwork, time leading to transformation – after winning the 2019 assembly polls and it has now become a buzzword in Odisha. His trusted assistant and private secretary VK Pandian is now better known as the “5T secretary”, as he deals with the implementation of the formula in different departments.
BJP chief Sajjan Sharma said the state government had little to show in administration, but was ready to reap political benefits through name games. “On behalf of [building a] Smart City, the government dug up the capital of Bhubaneswar on [the] Last 4 years, but the roads are flooded after the showers. If this government was so active, why has Odisha slipped to 29th in the Ease of Doing Business ranking for 2019, ”asked Sharma.