Prasanna Mishra

The name Odisha now has been made to breathe the burden of a “qualifying” prefix named “Nabin”. This is no ordinary development and deserves some discussion. “Nabin Odisha” has emerged as a scheme of the Government of Odisha, and, by a formal government notification, Shri VK Pandian, the erstwhile Private Secretary to Odisha’s Chief Minister for years, has been appointed as Chairman of Nabin Odisha along with 5T, a day after Centre permitted Shri Pandian to retire voluntarily from the IAS. He was an IAS officer of 2000 Batch. In the new assignment, he has been given the status of a cabinet minister.  Both“5T“ and“Nabin Odisha,” are innovative terminologies introduced to Odisha Administration. 

Even after much has already been written and talked about 5T, it has not turned out to be anything beyond an enigma and tongue-twister. Some explanations, however, seem necessary for Nabin Odisha. Odisha from time immemorial has been associated with Lord Jagannath. Even today, many Indian millennials in distant states are not familiar with Odisha but they strike a rapport when one explains that Odisha is the state where the Jagannath Dham is. Jagannath culture has shaped the psyche of Odisha’s people. The Lord is omnipresent and omnipotent; devotees feel that nothing happens without His will. People have accepted that the land has no need for a Ruler where the Lord Himself rules. Now this hoary tradition, many feel, seems to have been trampled upon by some self-seeking people. 

The official explanation of course would be that “Nabin Odisha” stands for New Odisha. If it was indeed the intention behind launching the hype, they could have preferred the term “New Odisha” like what Indian Railways have done in the case of a new railway station in the city by naming it “New Bhubaneswar” railway station while they could as well have named the station as “Nabin Bhubaneswar.”

To describe a new place, India has adopted the term New. That explains why the new capital city of India was named New Delhi—a name it still continues to bear. When Odisha’s capital city was built in Bhubaneswar, the new city was called New Capital. We have a place called New Jalpaiguri. The new city of Raipur has been named Naya Raipur and a new railway station, Naya Raipur. 

The real motive, many feel seems to present before voters that Odisha is Nabin. One is reminded of the brazen crudity resorted to in the past when a leader of the Congress Party had revealed his blank head by equating India with Indira. That was a ridiculous misadventure and an instance of crude sycophancy. That the state is known far and wide as the land of Lord Jagannath is now being projected as the land of Nabin is being interpreted as the deification of a human being.

The programme of Nabin Odisha comprises a largesse of fifty lakh rupees to every Panchayat (there are 6798 of them in the state) for carrying out some projects including the renovation of village temples. The managerial ability of Odisha’s Panchayats steadily has declined. Panchayats have almost lost their resource generation capability. The Panchayat office is yet to acquire the ability to formulate projects and execute them. The huge amount of money now being allotted to every Panchayat when the state would go to the polls after a few months is intended to be spent in a hurry and in a whimsical manner.

 Five years ago, the government had a similar opportunity to give huge amounts of money to Panchayats through a scheme called “Ama Gaon, Ama Bikash.” Some critics view the Nabin Odisha scheme as a repackaged version of the “Ama Gaon, Ama Bikash (Our village, Our development).” Some view the initiative as part of the ruling Party’s strategy to counter the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. A BJP leader said, “As per our information, of the 3,24,523 projects sanctioned under the ‘Ama Gaon Ama Bikash’ scheme, 2,94,623 projects are yet to be completed.”

Another special feature of the Nabin Odisha initiative is the birth and use of a logo. The picture of a Conch (Sankha) has now been used with “Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha” written over it. Sankha has been the Election symbol of the Biju Janata Dal and rightly the BJP has taken up the issue with the Election Commission of India.

Whatever the outcome of the BJP’s efforts may be, the decision to use the picture of a Conch in government advertisements and hoardings is a calculated move to show to the voters that the government is no different from the ruling party. After over two decades of uninterrupted rule, the Party’s leadership seems to have redefined parliamentary democracy with the brazen intrusion of the Party in government functioning with far-reaching consequences on the political neutrality of the government apparatus. 

Both Nabin Odisha and the Conch logo in government documents do not seem to help Odisha emerge as a true democracy.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)