Naveen’s visit to Cuttack in chopper draws criticism

Cuttack/Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik flying to Ravenshaw University in Cuttack, barely 25 km from Bhubaneswar, today drew criticism from different quarters with the opposition Congress describing it as “expensive”.

Patnaik flew by a six-seater chopper to attend the varsity’s student union function.

“Patnaik is probably the first chief minister who used a chopper to visit Cuttack, barely 25 km from Bhubaneswar… by road it takes 20 to 25 minutes,” pointed out Congress leader Suresh Mohapatra.

Dubbing Patnaik’s chopper journey to Cuttack as a very expensive exercise, Congress leader Mohapatra said an hour’s flying involves an expenditure of Rs 60,000 to Rs 90,000.

Patnaik’s chopper ride to Cuttack was scheduled after an egg hurling incident on his car in Bhubaneswar on February 19.

The Chief Minister’s vehicle was targeted by students and youth Congress activists when he was going to attend a students’ union function at Utkal University.

“Based on an intelligence input, the Chief Minister was advised to use a chopper for visiting Ravenshaw University,” a senior police officer in-charge of the CM’s security said.

Dismissing the attack, state higher education minister Pradeep Panigrahi termed it a “non-issue”.

Patnaik’s visit, however, failed to satisfy the students. Against an estimate of Rs 300 crore for setting up infrastructure for Ravenshaw University’s second campus, the Chief Minister announced only Rs 30 crore for the project.

While the second campus of the University at Naraj in Cuttack was badly needed to ease pressure on its crowded campus, Patnaik did not make any fresh announcement to increase its poor faculty position, which was upgraded to university eight years ago.

To cater to the needs of some 8,000 students of the university, the state government has sanctioned only 267 faculties in two phases. Out of 153 faculty positions sanctioned in the first phase, only 127 posts have been filled up in the last eight years, said a varsity official.

Non-teaching staff also felt let down as the Chief Minister was silent on their plight. Barring only one, the remaining hundred-odd non-teaching staff were a worried lot as their service conditions and job security were yet to be streamlined.