Implementation of Orissa Official Language Act 1954: Is Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Backing Out?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Had the Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Patnaik been sincere, the promised first meeting of the modality committee on implementation of Orissa Official Language Act, 1954 should have been held today.

On July 08, poet Gajanan Mishra was on the eighth day of his fast onto death for immediate implementation of Orissa Official Language Act 1954. It was his second fast on the same demand. And the entire State was waking up in his support.

Government was in panic, specifically as SriJagannatha’s Car Festival arrangements were in disarray. The situation was so alarming that four Ministers of State with independent charges – Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo, Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Food Minister Sanjaya Kumar Das Burma and Energy Minister Pranab Prakash Das – were put at Puri to supervise the works to ensure timely completion. Sri Mishra’s fast was making the situation more upsetting.

Under such circumstances, a government emissary arrived on the place where Sri Mishra was continuing his fast onto death and invited the Oriya Bhasa Sangram Samiti that was supporting Sri Mishra to a conference with a group of ministers awaiting in the Secretariat to explore what best the government can do to implement the Act of 1954 so that the hunger strike could come to a conclusion. The emissary had come with the official invitation under signature of Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo.

As the Samiti’s representatives arrived in the Secretariat the team of the four above named Ministers claiming to have been recalled from Puri by the Chief Minister for the purpose, assured the Samiti that the Government is fully prepared to implement the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954 with immediate effect. But modalities of implementation such as in law courts need a little more time to be fine-tuned and finalized. The Government wanted time till completion of the Car Festival. Therefore, it was decided that, subject to acceptance by Sri Mishra, the next meeting of cabinet representatives with Samiti representatives would be held on the day following Bahuda to finalize how in every office including the courts and hospitals Oriya shall be the language sans any deviation.

The joint decision of July 08 was placed by the team of ministers before the Chief Minister and after he put his stamp of approval on it, Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo came to Sri Mishra’s camp of fasting and requested him on behalf of the CM to brake his fast to help the government have a congenial climate for smooth management of the car festival, specifically as the CM has promised to enforce implementation of the Act of 1954 by August 15, the modalities for which will be formulated in the joint meeting on the day after Bahuda, Sri Mishra agreed.

But it is shocking that the joint meeting is not yet convened. Sri Misra, resident of Titilagarh, Bolangir had arrived at Bhubaneswar yesterday. As the government has failed to convene the modality committee, he has gone back.

Is the Chief Minister backing out?

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