Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik, whom non-Oriya, even foreign industrialists use as an instrument to grab Orissa’s natural resources and corrupt ministers as well as bureaucrats use as a shield, is perhaps too weak to handle IAS officer Hrushikesh Panda.

Panda, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of public sector cooperative business joint of milk producers (OMFED) has shown his guts in ignoring instruction of Navin Patnaik in the matter of hiking retail price of OMFED milk as he has revived the rate struck down by the CM on October 31, 2008.

To total disadvantage of consumers he had arbitrarily hiked the retail rate of milk from Rs.20 per liter to Rs.24 with immediate effect on 16 October 2008 without even any prior announcement. Investigative journalists had shown how the hike was vitiated with impropriety and how OMFED had become an Augean stable. Sharp protests from consumers rocked the corridors of power. The Chief Minister was warned by every one of his cabinet whenever whosoever of them met him. It took fifteen days for the CM to rise to the occasion and to impose a reversal of the price to earlier rate. Simultaneously, he constituted a high-power committee for finding out if price hike of OMFED milk was necessary and if so, what should be the fair price. The committee is working on that and its report is yet to be finalized.

This was not to be digested by Panda.

He is a man who does not like to be subdued. Even his career as an IAS officer has occasions to attract scathing criticism from members of Orissa Legislative Assembly leading to unanimous decisions for stringent actions against him including suspension.

There are occasions when administrative authorities have seen in him streaks of insubordination and there are occasions when the judiciary has intervened in disciplinary actions against him.

Affected OMFED consumers are inclined to suspect that Chief Minister Navin Patnaik’s order for keeping the milk rate stymied at the previous level till the high-level committee determines a just rate and the Government approves the same is struck by the same streak.

If OMFED’s decision to increase the rate is not forthwith nullified by the Government and Panda is not tamed to honor Government orders, it will be clear that Navin Patnaik is too weak to handle Hrushikesh Panda.

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