At the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19 in India, our Hon’ble CM, Shri Naveen Patnaikji declared it a disaster as per the National Disaster Management Act. Odisha was the first state to declare lockdown, provide incentive to the needy and execute a series of initiatives for fighting the battle against uncertainties. Doing things fast and doing things effectively are two different things. It is rarely a match. Solely in the case of Shri Naveen Patnaik Ji, the decisions have not just been fast but they have been historic too.
Three path-breaking decisions by Shri Naveen Patnaik ji are:
1. Empathy and help for odia migrant workers
Lakhs of migrant Odia workers are stuck at several places of India due to the lockdown. To put an end to their misery, Naveen Patnaikji has clearly stated that he would facilitate, in collaboration with the Government of India, the return of all those migrants who wanted to come back to Odisha after the lockdown is eased on the 3rd of May. Starting from exemptions of road taxes, to appointing senior officials and co-ordination with various states, are being conducted to make this transportation process easier. It takes a lot of heart, hard work and vision to get back lacks of stranded people from one state to another, especially when the journey is so long. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Ji intends to express to all that all the migrants have equal rights over the soil, water and air of Odisha similar to that of an educated, well-off urban individual.
Getting back the people from the state is one thing, but what makes this decision exemplary is that the state government has made compulsory registration norms for all migrants willing to return to Odisha. The government has developed a portal for the purpose. Post return of migrants, they will have to stay under government quarantine for 14 days. The government is quickly setting up quarantine centres in around 7,000 panchayats for the migrant workers. The quarantine centres would have 2 lakh beds which would be scaled up to 5 lakh as more and more people come back.
2. Empowering the Grassroots
For effective implementation of the roadmap and to assure protection and dignity of the for lakhs of migrants possible, at the grassroots level, another historic decision was taken by Naveen Ji- “the delegation of the powers of District Collector to sarpanchs of gram panchayats”.
Panchayati Raj constitutes the ‘People’s Parallel Executive Apparatus’. Biju Baju, the son of Odisha and the unique mass leader, had a deep faith that this parallel executive apparatus made up of the representatives of the common people could perform better for the dignity of people at the lowest strata of the society. He was a committed exponent of ‘democratic decentralisation in the form of Panchayati Raj’ which aims at making democracy real by ‘bringing millions into the functioning of their representative government at the lowest level’.
Following the footsteps of Biju Babu, our beloved CM Naveen Patnaikji announced his government’s “historic” decision to delegate the collector’s powers to sarpanchs empowering them to facilitate smooth movement, track and monitor the returnees, and strengthen Odisha’s fight against Covid19. Likewise, women sarpanchs, leaders and SHGs have been vastly contributing towards the fight against COVID-19.
This is a golden opportunity for all the panchanyats and their sarpanch to deliver in the best possible way. They can extend their services to all the people in their jurisdiction, serve the people and earn the dignity, respect and trust of the people. Thus, the importance and the power of panchayats will be known to the people if this exercise is executed properly.
3. Setting up of Covid Hospitals
Only a decentralised approach and humane approach can solve this extraordinary situation. Every extraordinary situation calls for extraordinary solutions. Focusing on labourers and people of the lowest strata and their monitoring is essential. But to solve the crisis of COVID-19 for the weakest levels of people, what the state needed next was making healthcare accessible. The decision of setting up a coronavirus-centric hospital in every district of Odisha was both historic and astonishing. Realising quite early on that coronavirus could take the lives of numerous people if not resisted, detected or treated, Naveen Ji quickly started setting up establishments of COVID-19. I am glad that I could help in setting up the largest COVID-19 establishment in the country via my medical institution- Kalinga Institute of medical sciences (KIMS). The official decision to set up Covid-19 hospitals in every district was declared on the 15th of April by Patnaik Ji. Since then, Odisha is preparing to set-up 36 hospitals with a combined bed capacity of 6000, which will treat every patient free of cost. This one statement alone defines the virtue, ideology and power of Odisha, Odias and Naveen Ji. Most of the 36 hospitals are operational as of now.
Remember that Odisha suffers nearly 25% of India’s natural disasters, and still manages to thrive every time. This basically means that Naveen Ji has a history of taking historic decisions on disaster management, and we, as responsible citizens, have always supported the right cause and defeated the challenges we have faced. We have done it before, and we will do it again.