Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

IAS officer Manoj Ahuja will have his task cut out when he takes charge as the New Chief Secretary of Odisha from Monday. As per political analysts, Ahuja will mainly face huge challenges like- removing bureaucratic bloats of the previous government, wiping out the bitter feeling between the Odia and non-Odia officials and fulfilling all the assurances promised by the newly-formed BJP government in its election manifesto.

The 1990-batch IAS officer, who has returned to Odisha from the central deputation, will have a herculean task in hand to provide a new identity to the Odisha administration by improving its image and lending a balance between the Odia and non-Odia officials.

As the BJP government has been formed 24 years after the BJD governance, the onus will be on Ahuja to change the bureaucracy’s style of functioning by going beyond a system that was heavily dependent on officials, coterie governance and officer raj. While the elected leaders and ministers were not getting any kind of attention during BJD’s tenure, Ahuja has to ensure infusing fresh blood into the system. He has to give a new message to the people regarding the changing dynamics in the administration and make the bureaucracy answerable before the government. 

Moreover, Ahuja will have his task cut out to remove the conflict between Odia and non-Odia officials that was prevalent during the BJD government’s tenure. He will also have to give a new direction to the administration by initiating transfers of the officials who have been occupying some particular posts for a long time.

“Bureaucracy has the responsibility to manage the administration as per the provision in the Constitution. There should be no question of anyone dominating others. If there is any kind of deviation, it should have happened on a temporary basis. I think no such deviations should happen,” said former Administrator Arabinda Behera.

“There was dissatisfaction brewing among the people about the governance as bureaucrats had become powerful and the elected leaders had no importance. The main challenge for the new Chief Secretary will be to end Officer Raj in the State,” said senior journalist Prasanna Mohanty.

BJP has come to power for the first time in Odisha on the basis of some assurances promised in its election manifesto. Some of the main promises are providing Rs 50,000 to women under the Subhadra Yojana, providing Rs 3,100 as MSP per quintal of paddy, providing three times more irrigation facilities within five years, returning chit fund money to the victims and increasing the old-age allowance to Rs 3,000. It will be an onerous task for Ahuja to mobilize finance to keep the promises of the ruling party. Moreover, another challenge for him will be to launch investigations into the corruption activities that occurred during the tenure of the previous government. Most importantly, he has to uproot the PC culture that was rampant far and wide during the tenure of the previous government to fulfil the commitment of a corruption-free government.

“Ahuja will have the tough challenge to fulfil the assurances promised by the BJP government in its election manifesto. He also has to ensure proper coordination between the Centre and the State in the double engine government,” said political analyst Sandeep Mishra.

After outgoing Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena, Ahuja is the senior most IAS officer in the State administration. Apart from his vast experience, he is in the good books of Prime Minister Narendra Modi by working efficiently as a Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry. Under such circumstances, it is expected that Ahuja will be able to bring more assistance for the State from the Centre with proper coordination.

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