People of Odisha are almost every day being sensitised with the arrival of a new era in governance after the introduction of 5T. There is not a single day when the newspapers don’t carry news of the spread of 5T and the wonders it is doing in solving the unending problems of the common man. It is therefore time, we genetically sequenced and decoded 5T- the new variant.
5T stands for (i) Teamwork, (ii) Technology, (iii) Transparency, (iv) Transformation and (v) Time-limit. As per government’s new policy, all government action must be governed by these five cardinal principles. Any student of political science would appreciate that these five ingredients constitute the core elements of democratic governance and governments, right from the time of independence, have been governed by such principles. The very fact that it is being rediscovered now by Naveen Government makes us suspect that these principles had vanished altogether during Naveen Patnaik’s 22-year rule causing mass scale discontentment and erosion of popularity and being restored to regain people’s confidence. The vehemence with which it is being propagated is further proof that such principles are alien to most of the people in the government apparatus who deliver public service.
Technology, mostly IT, was introduced into governance in the late 80s. The world over, it enables citizens to access government services in a seamless manner from the comfort of their home. Most of the work can be done online.
But how does Odisha administration fare on this front? One still has to run to the RI office to pay land rent, to the Municipality office to pay holding tax, run to the PHD office to pay water bills. Imagine a situation where citizens are willing to pay but the government does not create the facility for an online payment. Will the 5T mandarins wake up to this and ensure this in a time-bound manner?
Odisha government and the 5T variant have been overactive on the social media space to crowd it with government achievements. Each day the Municipal Corporation’s twitter handle provides photographs of streets and drains being cleaned. How real is such propaganda? The 5T variant is busy and active creating a surreal world which has severe ‘disconnect’ with ground reality. A good policy, on the other hand, should encourage citizens to take to social media to register their complaints and the authorities responding to such complaints.
What about transparency? The Kalinga Stadium was spruced up for the World Cup Hockey Tournament and the event was organised in a grand way earning praise of the international community. By all standards it was a great success. But do we still know how much was spent on that event and who financed the project? Were transparency issues addressed? As per press reports, the real cost incurred on the lavish mansion called Kharavela Bhawan was not being reported for months by the executing department to the administrative department. Obviously, the issue of transparency was not being shown the respect it deserved. Government withheld the information on how much they spent fighting cases in High Court and Supreme Court a case against Prakash Mishra, the former DG of Police. What was the great public interest sought to be achieved in sacrificing transparency in the instant case?
Similarly the smart city project is being implemented with great fanfare. Do we know how much was spent and what was achieved with that huge expenditure? Why is a government, swearing by 5T, not making voluntary disclosures on matters of public importance?
5T also talks about transformation. We should be clear about what we want to transform to. The NITI Aayog periodically tracks the performance of various states in achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). SDG aims at reduction of poverty, hunger, ensuring health-care, good education, gender equality, clean water etc. Odisha’s rank slipped from 15th to 19th during 20-21. Odisha slipped two places to 14th spot in the overall health index prepared by the NITI Aayog. Odisha slipped to the 29th position in the ease of doing business.
The Public Affairs Center prepares a Public Affairs Index wherein State Governments are evaluated on five themes - effectiveness of government, control over corruption, accountability, rule of law and regulatory equality. Odisha ranks 17th in that index, below UP. Is this the transformation that 5T seeks to achieve?
5T seeks to enforce ‘time-limit’ on delivery of services. To retain credibility, it must adhere to time limits for normal requirements of citizens. Why do mutation cases remain pending indefinitely? Why do allegations of heavy bribe for finalising mutation cases keep coming in? The real test of 5T would be to gauge how far it has succeeded in making the life of a citizen easier. Time and cost overruns on major development projects have become the rule rather than exception. The completion schedule for the Bus Terminal at Baramunda remains open. While foundation laying for a project becomes an expensive government festival, no importance is given to when a project would be completed and at what cost. Potholes on city roads seem to enjoy immortality; so also hawkers on pavements.
Official portal of Government of Odisha on 5T states that team work, technology, transparency, transformation and time limit will be the five factors on which performance of government officials and projects will be judged. It also states that adherence to 5T charter is now the top priority of the Odisha government for which a separate department has been created. This all important department seems to have messed up fundamental principles of organisation like Unity of Command and Hierarchical System. Primacy of the Secretary to the Government in the affairs of his Department has been severely compromised. Even the primacy of the Chief Secretary seems to have been dented.
The ubiquitous 5T model of the Naveen Patnaik Government is akin to the elephant for blind men, with different meaning to different people. It appears on the wall of a renovated school building; it also appears on a street hydrant or tap drinking water facility. Despite relentless publicity on 5T, malfeasance in governance runs galore. Decline in standards of governance and publicity drive on 5T seem to be running parallel. 5T is an English abbreviation and is interpreted in different ways by the Aam Admi of the state. It seems it never was meant to enrich the quality of governance; its purpose seems to be to create hype which political managers think would work during elections.
(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. The author can be reached at email@example.com)
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