“The future of India lies in its villages.” This famous statement by Mahatma Gandhi stands true even when the world is hurrying towards industrialisation and urbanisation. Gandhi had a profound love for the villages and respect for the villagers. He believed that it was impractical for India’s cities to accommodate the burgeoning population in a dignified way. He romanticised village life as self-sufficient, simple, free, non-violent, and truthful. But he recognised that the playing field had to be levelled with both landscapes for the country to develop. Else there would be an economic and class difference that will tear the dream of development apart.

Gandhi intended towards a bottom’s up approach in governance of India. The governance of Odisha has been designed precisely the way Gandhi ji wanted this country to be governed- the 5T model of governance. The 5T model of governance- transparency, technology, teamwork, transformation and time- gives every citizen a levelled playing field beyond the textbook. “Go on extensive tours. This will help you to know about the activities of your department at the grass-roots level. Make surprise visits to different offices and institutions under your department. This will expedite the delivery of governance,” Shri Naveen Patnaik urges all the ministers of the state.

Amid the rise of COVID-19, Odisha has been working in the grassroot level, knowing fully well that ones the villages are safe, the whole country will be. The government has been Empowering the villages so they can self sustain. Seeing the public demand for masks, nearly 10 lakh masks were made and distributed by Women SHGs. Nearly 500 SHGs have set up dry ration, vegetables and fruit shops across the state with the help of the district administration. Mission Shakti, in particular, has been delivering ration to setting up vegetable shops, and making people understand the necessity of remaining indoors during the lockdown across Odisha. Financially, numerous WSHGs and federations have voluntarily contributed from their group savings to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund for the coronavirus pandemic.

From hygiene to health, Odisha has managed to resist Coronavirus by strengthening the grass-root level workers. At the panchayat level, the state government has declared that all the panchayats of the state shall from now on get exclusive COVID-19 centres. 36 such hospitals are to be set up, of which 20 are functional. These centres are completely equipped to handle coronavirus cases. Odisha is the first state to provide cooked food to the underprivileged in all panchayats, implemented by local bodies.

Today, Hon’ble CM has announced a proactive, humane & scientific approach to facilitate return of people of Odisha stranded outside the State, after restrictions are lifted. This will be done through community based monitoring system involving Gram Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies. To implement this effectively & with humane touch, Odisha in a historic decision, is delegating powers of District Collectors to Sarpanchs in GPs for their jurisdiction.

Odisha has given life to this decentralised structure, through the practice of a robust democratic culture. Be it a natural disaster like Fani or a pandemic; the state has always delivered. The world is a witness to the powers of the bottom to top-level empowerment. The individuals of Odisha are the once who have made the difference, and it is the governance that has equipped them to do so.