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The Hindu
The Hindu
Satyasundar Barik

Naveen Patnaik comes up with a flurry of ‘populist’ programmes in Odisha

The Odisha government on October 12 rolled out the ‘Location Accessible Multi-modal Initiative’ (LAccMI), a forward-looking public transportation system connecting gram panchayats to the State capital, part of a series of populist initiatives being launched in the run-up to next year’s elections.

As many 36 buses will connect 111 gram panchayats in Malkangiri district, many of which are the remotest of remote in the country.

Malkangiri has been chosen to commence the project as two previous welfare projects – ₹1 per 1 kg rice and Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojna – launched from the district had turned out to be hugely successful, helping to increase Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s acceptance among people by several notches.

Mission Shakti Self Help Group (SHGs) will be engaged in various operation and maintenance-related activities within the blocks in the first phase of LAccMI bus services, which will be implemented in Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangpur, Gajapati and Kandhamal districts.

The government plans to spend ₹3,178 crore in the first three years of the bus operation from 2023-24 to 2025-26. As many as 1000 buses would play connecting interior pockets with urban centres.

The State government has announced several populist programmes in the past eight days – signalling its efforts to reach out to different sections of society.  

On October 7, Mr. Patnaik announced special incentives of ₹2500 per unit for betel and kewda farmers under the Chief Minister’s Agriculture Industries Yojna. Besides, they will be entitled to additional assistance under the State Horticulture Mission.

On same day, Mr. Patnaik approved a Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Bhubaneswar Metro Project, the State’s single largest urban infrastructure project. The State government will bear the Entire cost of the project.

A Special Development Council (SDC), formed to accelerate developmental works in nine tribal-dominated districts, was provided an additional ₹175 crore. This year, the SDC will have a fund to the tune of ₹351 crore. The money will be spent on the preservation of language, art, culture and heritage of the tribals.

Subsequently, the government expanded the Drink from Tap Mission to 13 towns which would benefit 12.30 lakh people. On October 11, the State government announced to bear ₹528 crore towards interest for the loan which members of Woman Self Help Group would take for buying scooter.

The biggest populist programme could be the Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha (AONO), under which all 6794 panchayats in the State will receive ₹50 lakh each. Mr. Patnaik on October 10 approved ₹148.50 crore for 297 gram panchayats coming under six assembly constituencies of Keonjhar district and ₹109 crore for 218 gram panchayats in Bhadrak district. 

According insiders of the Biju Janata Dal, the announcement of approval of funds for different districts would be made at regular interval. This may prove to be effective messaging that the State government was concerned about the development of all parts of the State.

Political observers said the Naveen Patnaik Government would approach next elections on a ‘feel good’ factor. The announcements regarding the operationalisation of LAccMI bus service in each district would be made in a phased manner in order to sustain the ‘feel good’ factor.

“This is old strategy of Odisha CM. He remains silent for first four years of a tenure and becomes active in election year. None of the grand populist scheme earlier announced by Mr. Patnaik has been successfully completed. These announcements are meant to deflect people’s attention from his failures,” said Sajjan Sharma, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader.

Mr. Sharma said, “Nobody knows the fate of Biju Gaon Gadi Yojna (a bus service scheme) and Biju Yuva Bahini (a youth empowerment programme). Ama Gaon Ama Bikash was launched with much fanfare. As it failed, the government found a new name Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha.”

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