Op-Ed: Work for the party, make merry at govt expense!

Already blurred for quite a while now, the lines between the government and the ruling party are vanishing fast as election day nears. In the latest example of how government funds are being brazenly used to keep BJD cadres in good humour, the government is in the process of drawing up a list of at least 120 ‘outstanding’ volunteers of Biju Yuva Vahini (BYV) who will be sent on an all-expenses paid jaunt to Singapore.

No one knows what these worthies are expected to do during the trip or how it is going to benefit the state. in the absence of any official word on the purpose behind the whole exercise, it is safe to assume that it would be a foreign jaunt to indulge the young BJD cadres masquerading as ‘change agents’ at government expense ahead of the election.

All we know so far is that the government has asked collectors to recommend four names from among BYV cadres from their district for the Singapore trip. The Collectors, in turn, have asked all BDOs in their district to recommend the names of two ‘outstanding BYV volunteers’ from their block after due consultation with the block BYV coordinator. The final list of 120 will be presumably drawn up from the 628 names recommended by the BDOs of the 314 blocks in the state. Though the original idea was to select four BYV members from each district, latest information coming out from the power corridors suggests that more than four could be chosen from some of the bigger districts, thus pushing the number of those who board the plane to Singapore in February end beyond 120.

For a government that never tires of selling its supposed ‘transparency’ credentials, this is as opaque as it gets. This is a fit case for RTI activists to force the government to lift the veil of secrecy and reveal a few things that the tax-paying public must know because the expenses are obviously going to be met from the state exchequer.

Some of the questions are obvious. What is the whole idea behind the Singapore trip? What was the reason behind selecting Singapore and not some other country for the jaunt? What are the youth selected for the jaunt expected to do in Singapore? If the idea was to give young volunteers some exposure, why confine it to BYV instead of spreading the net wider? Are there no young volunteers outside the BYV fold who are doing good work? Why deny them the opportunity? How much will be spent on the entire exercise? How is the trip going to benefit the state? And last but not the least why now when elections are just round the corner?

If the government was really transparent, as it claims to be, it would not have waited for an RTI query ans answered these questions on its own. Had it not been for Sambalpur Collector Samarth Verma’ s letter to all BDOs in his district getting leaked on social media, the whole thing may well have remained under wraps till the ‘outstanding’ volunteers boarded the flight to Singapore (may be even after that!).

But now that the cat is out of the bag, the Naveen Patnaik government must place answers to all the questions posed above in the public domain. If it doesn’t, it must be forced to do so. If it still doesn’t, there can be only one conclusion. It is a bribe to the BYV volunteers to ensure that they do their bit to bring in the votes during the coming election.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are 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)