Suryakant Jena

Ahead of the Panchayat Elections in Odisha in a few months time, a new poser now lies before the government. A Bengaluru-based think-tank has ranked the State third from the bottom among the 18 larger states in the country in terms of the best governance.

As per a report published in the ‘Public Affair Index-2021’ released by the Bangalore-based ‘Public Affairs Centre’, the state has been ranked 16th in the list of 18 states.

The Public Affairs Index (PAI) is a data-based framework that measures the quality of governance at the Sub-national level, and ranks the States of India on a Composite Index (CI). States are classified into large States, Small States (using population as the criteria) and Union Territories

It discusses issues around the broad ‘sustainable development’ space centered on three primary themes: Growth, Equity and Sustainability. From a philosophical perspective, it elaborates on the key imperatives of Governance in the States that make for good performance, as well as what makes each State unique.

While Kerala has once again been ranked as the state with the best governance, a position it has held ever since PAI started publishing the index five years ago, smaller states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are also way above Odisha.

In terms of Equity, while Odisha has secured 17th place among all the 18 larger states in India, the report has placed it in 13th position in terms of the Growth index. Similarly, in terms of Sustainability, Odisha has been placed at 12th position.

And all this comes even as the State government continues to make big claims on transparency and good governance, financial experts have expressed deep concerns over the dim performance of the State in the overall PAI index. Economists have urged the government to take serious note of the report and accordingly plan ameliorative measures.

"Be it in scheme or implementation, there may be some loopholes which need to be closely reviewed so that the efficiency of the governance in the state can be enhanced," said Rajeev Sahu, a financial expert.

The PAI report has also exposed the loopholes in the much-hyped 5T initiative of the government. It states that even though the aims of the idea was to usher in good governance by duly considering the suggestions from the public, the government is not giving equal representations to all sections of people in policy-making.

The PAI report meanwhile has stimulated the Opposition to train their guns at the failing administration, deep-lying corruption, and the government's inefficacy as the reasons behind the poor performance of the State. However, the ruling Biju Janata Dal has played down the issue and said that the affairs in the state are satisfactory.

Satyabrata Panda, a BJP spokesman said even though Odisha gets a bounty of assistance from the BJP government at the Centre, the performance of the state in governance has been extremely disappointing which shows how poor the BJD government has been running the state.

"Odisha government needs to 'be responsible' and take responsibility in this regard," said Panda.

Similarly, Congress lawmaker Sura Routray slammed the government for aligning the schemes like Peetha, KALIA more for the benefit of the ruling party workers than for the general public at large.

However, BJD MLA Raj Kishore Das said the PAI report has little meaning especially if the state has been continuously doing well in terms of ease of living.