Orissa Cabinet: Some Random Thoughts

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The first meeting of the new cabinet has resolved to implement the manifesto for which the people of Orissa have given it the mandate.

But wishful thinking will not help.

The first Cabinet has resolved to implement the manifesto in phased manner. This looks like a political jargon to hoodwink the people. If the manifesto is to be implemented in phased manner, priority should have been clearly spelt out simultaneously. It has not been done. People have a right to know which item in the manifesto would be the item for implementation in the first phase.

When vultures rush

Like vultures rush at the carcass, mega Industries that are noted for their acts of empire building at the cost of Orissa’s eco-systems and indigenous people’s living environment, have already made their commanding presence felt in the office of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the very day of commencement of his new phase.
So, it is necessary to know how the Cabinet is fixing its priority, which business is to be transacted in first phase and which later and in the last phase.

Peculiarity

The ruling party that has bagged the mandate is marked for its peculiarity. It is a combine of persons who in attire appear like leaders, but in reality, loyal to a single person, whom they call ‘Supremo’ (the Supreme boss).

Being thus a boss-based party, its ministers are not made with the ingredient to go against the whims and caprices of the boss, who is marked for his eagerness to help mega industries, even if that harms the people with enforced displacement, elimination of their permanent sources of earning and assets that keep them self-employed and over and above these debacles, infests them with industry-induced killer diseases that destroys their economy and hampers their future generations.

This cabinet is undoubtedly a new incarnation of cabinets of sycophants like the preceding one. If its boss Naveen Patnaik wants the entire Orissa to be handed over to mega industries, not a single member of the Cabinet is supposed to stand up and say ‘no’ to that design. So, the new phase of the government has commenced with clouds of the mega industries’ hegemony shrouding over the sky of administration.

A new syndrome called super chief minister

Most of the members of the last cabinet, who were taking “orders” from the Chief Minister’s private secretary, are also in the present cabinet. We had warned the Chief Minister about rise of a super CM in his office; but that was ignored. If the BJDians have the honesty to tell the truth, from their mouths only it may emanate that all ticket-aspirants were submitting their application with bio-data for ticket to the said private secretary only, when in real life he is a government servant, not expected to play any role in party-politics. Unless this super-chief-minister syndrome is not removed, the new Cabinet may fail to deliver, howsoever well-worded be its resolutions.

The Chief Minister should gather intelligence on the staff of his own office to know what really is happening behind his back, in his name.

The scheming bureaucrats have reduced the CM’s office to such a fort that the Press is not allowed to enter into it in pursuit of information.

Since independence, in no Chief Minister’s time, accredited journalists were denied entry into the CMO, as is happening in Naveen’s tenure.

Accreditation is granted to experienced journalists under a set of Rules to grant them access to sources of information. But, this provision is of no prevalence as far as the Chief Minister’s office is concerned.

Have the bureaucrats reduced the CMO to a den of secret deals? Is it so under orders of the CM? If not, who has devised this trick of keeping the CM de facto distant from the Press?

Intelligence wing of the police is under the CM and available to serve him with correct reports on how power-centers had grown in his preceding tenure in his own office and can enlighten him on ongoing activities of bureaucrats in his office even now.

Let him wake up to the issue and keep under leash the officials of his own office, if he really wants to honor the mandate given to him by the people.

Prerogative needs application of mind

If his fourth term should be a successful one, he is to reshuffle his cabinet in matter of portfolios. Allocation of portfolios is prerogative of the CM. Yet, it needs application of mind, in State interest.

Orissa has the labyrinthine predicament in areas of Mines, energy and industry.

I am not mentioning about Works and Water resources, Home and General Administration, because the CM has kept these portfolios with him.

But senior ministers, who are placed in cabinet rank, should have been given the responsibilities of the departments of utmost public importance like Mines and Energy.

When a junior minister in MoS rank Prafulla Mallik has to administer the Mines department, energy is given to Pranab Prakas Das. Without any prejudice to their capabilities, one may deem it proper to wish that serious thought should have been given to these departments as they are so full of intricacies that need highly experienced hands.

Better to be compatible

Allocation of portfolios to ministers is the prerogative of the Chief Minister. But the Chief Minister represents all the people of the State. He should hear if any fellow citizen advances any well meaning advice. One such advice is based on improvable allotment of departments.

Experienced and capable Debi Prasad Mishra has been given the Industry portfolio; but he is also saddled with the department of School and Mass Education, which many people believe never-to-be-normal. The School and Mass Education department, from bottom to top, is in such a mess that a highly experienced and commanding cabinet Minister should have been put in its exclusive charge, as Industry needs an exclusive Minister. Debi Prasad is fit to lead each one of these departments, but not the both; because they are not compatible.By putting both of these departments under the charge of Debi Prasad, Naveen has done injustice to both the departments. Debi babu should be divested of any one of these two departments, so that he can give proper attention to the other one.

Similarly, veteran Dr. Damodar Raut has been put to incompatible portfolios, such as Co-operation and Excise. How Excise is relevant to Co-operation? He could have been given Agriculture and Co-operation or Revenue and Excise, if his services are necessary for more than one department.

Bikram Keshari Arukh has been given Environment and Jungle with Parliamentary Affairs and Usha Devi has been put in charge of Women and Child Development and Planning where as Snehangini Chhoria has been given Handloom and Handicrafts and Mission Shakti. Should it not have been better to give Parliamentary Affairs and Planning to Arukh and in place of planning, the department of Mission Shakti (Women empowerment) to Usha Devi?

Arun Sahoo has been given Panchayatiraj and Law. Are they not heavy enough to be kept under the care of two Ministers?

Sanjay Das Burma has been given Food and Consumer Affairs and Technical Education and training; whereas Pranab Prakas Das has IT and Energy and Prafulla Mallik is given Steel, Mines and Labor. For making the charges compatible, Law and Labor should have been given to any one of them, IT should have been tagged with Technical Education and Training along with Industry.

Unless different departments a minister is to handle are compatible, ministers not being subject matter specialists, the burden will give enough scope to the executive to mislead or hoodwink the minister. I am afraid, the Chief Minister has not applied necessary mind to this phenomenon. He has just done a political exercise to distribute departments, but not a foresighted exercise.

To make the Cabinet the master of administration, the CM will do better by reallocating the portfolios.

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