Naveen’s fifth innings: poor strike rate in governance streamlining

Making a single minister in-charge of the weighty portfolios like Agriculture & Higher Edu or Industries and Energy will do no good to governance in State

Bhubaneswar: In his record fifth-term, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Ministry making exercise didn’t show any green shoots towards streamlining of governance in Odisha, which the State needs badly to propel to a consistent growth path. The distribution of portfolios only reveals about a half-hearted approach towards governance streamlining in the State.

Consider this. The vesting of two unrelated departments to Arun Sahoo is bereft of any sensible logic. Arun Sahoo has been made minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment, Fisheries & Animal Resources Development along with the department of Higher Education. As both the departments need full-time ministers, giving Arun Sahoo the charge of both will not do any justice to the respective departments.

It needs mentioning that Odisha lagged behind in indicators like higher secondary pass-out rate and none of its universities figuring in the top-100 list nationally. The criticality of an evolving scenario in Odisha also is a whopping 36.08 lakh youth aged 18 – 23 years in Odisha were out of the higher education loop in Odisha, revealed the AISHE (All India Survey on Higher Education) 17-18 report.

Similarly, the real income of farmers in Odisha has dwindled over the years. As per the Directorate of Economics and Statistics of Odisha Government, the total value of their crop products dipped to Rs 26,849 crore in 2016-17 from Rs 28,440 crore in 2012-13 at 2011-12 prices. With successive cyclones, droughts and pest attacks, the net value added (NVA) under crops were not maintaining a consistent growth. Given the enormity, a full-time agriculture minister is the need of the hour.

Another instance of poor governance streamlining is the allocation of two weighty portfolios of Energy and Industries to Dibya Shankar Mishra. The Energy Department is already beset with complex problems for which the State is gradually slipping into power-deficit coupled with poor power infrastructure, especially when cyclone Fani has dealt a body blow to the power infra recently.

Similarly, Odisha has slipped to bottom in ‘manufacturing emergence’, revealed the ASSOCHAM report. The report had also outlined weak industrial parameters in the State like lower gross value added in manufacturing industries, return on capital, operating ratios etc. Both the departments, thus, need full time ministers

The instance of allocating the portfolio of Electronics and IT (E&IT) to IITian Tusharkanti Behera looks sensible, but clubbing of Sports Department is incomprehensible. For better outcome, the Technical Education department should have been clubbed with the E&IT.

The allocation of two departments like Panchayati Raj & Drinking Water along with Housing & Urban Development to Pratap Jena defies the logic. When the recent Swachh Sarvekshan revealed acute gaps in civic governance across the municipal towns in the State, the clubbing of two major departments in no way will deliver pro-people administration.  For urbanisation, a progressive State does need fulltime Ministers.

Besides, not appointing a fulltime MSME Minister also underlined the poor streamlining exercise of governance, when MSME is the largest job-provider department in the State.