Colour TVs and grinders are passé, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik now introduces foreign trips

This blatant appeasement of voters is coming at the cost of crippling state treasury while flouting rule and statutes.

20 years of rule and still going strong. We hear that a lot about Naveen Patnaik, don’t we? If political commentators are to be believed, he is going to sweep 2019 as well and return to power for another term. How one wishes that Naveen Patnaik himself was as confident as the political commentators are, about his fate in the upcoming elections. His actions surely don’t project a very confident and laid back Naveen Patnaik that we were used to in previous elections, including 2014 when Modi wave was at its peak.

In last few months he has launched a slew of projects which enables him to literally distribute cash among beneficiaries of various societal class including farmers, youth, unemployed, senior citizens to name a few. This blatant appeasement of voters is coming at the cost of crippling state treasury while flouting rule and statutes.

One such scheme for farmers is Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA). Lord Jagannath is also popularly called Kalia in Odisha owning to his Black colour. This scheme is seen as a more prudent replacement of the otherwise ill visioned loan waiver scheme. Under this scheme, the state government will provide an assistance of Rs 12,000 to 15,000 in cash annually to disadvantaged and economically backward farmers. The budgetary requirement for this scheme is around 3000 crore a year.

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To fund his populist scheme, Naveen Patnaik’s government has recently withdrawn 735 crore rupees from state contingency funds.

Under article 267(2) of the constitution, contingency fund can only be used for “unforeseen events”. Regular government schemes aren’t unforeseen events by any definition. Whether this order will stand constitutional scrutiny or not remains to be seen.

The government has also started a group of youth volunteers called Biju Yuva Vahini – BYV. As per the official vision statement of the organisation, it aims to “Channelize the immense energy of the youth of Odisha towards Nation-Building Activities”. However, it has been in news for all the wrong reasons since its inception. It has been alleged that the members of Biju Yuva Vahini work as paid mercenaries of BJD to carry out attacks on its political adversaries, starting from Kharabela Swain to Jay Panda.

CAG has pulled up Naveen’s government over such reckless spending and has refrained it from spending money on BYV pending CAG audit.

BYV is a group of volunteers chosen by Department of Sports and Youth Services, Government of Odisha. The selection process isn’t very transparent and is left to the whims of the ruling party. The group gets funding from the government for various activities as well as routine office expenditure. It also gets a fixed sum of 1.5 lakh rupees a year for each block to carry out sports and community activities.

Biju Yuva Vahini is a non-government body where the members will be chosen by government officers with no formal mechanism of enforcing transparency and accountability and will be given money to carry out their daily and annual affair from state coffers.

If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, read on. Recently, an order was issued from Sambalpur Collector to all BDOs of Sambalpur district asking them to mandatorily register at least 5 members from each BYV unit for a mega blood donation drive to be held on 23rd January. If that’s not all, it also asks them to identify 2 BYV members from each unit, who will be sent to Singapore on an all expense paid trip from state coffers. Grinder, colour TV and laptops are passé now. A foreign trip is the new ‘in’ thing.

But the key difference here is, instead of party fund, taxpayers money is being used for these doles-for-vote schemes. If pollsters and commentators are to be believed, Naveen Patnaik is all set to return to power in 2019. He is crippling state finance to a state beyond repair where he has to withdraw money from the contingency fund to finance government schemes while the government has all the money to send random NGO people on paid foreign trips. All this while, a major talking point of the government has been that we are a poor state and the centre must give us “Special Category Status”.

Copybook example of how to play by books yet use state machinery for the unofficial election campaign. Naveen Patnaik has surely learnt a lesson or two from Indira Gandhi’s Jeep incident.

Absurdity apart, one wonders how can BDO or any government officer mandatorily enrol people for a blood donation drive. Maybe, on Netaji’s birthday, CM took the clarion call of Netaji to a new level. “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe Singapore ka ticket dunga“.

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