No more district zeros: Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik

Odisha CM Patnaik told officials during a video-conference on October 14: “None of our districts should be a zero district at the national level. This has to be followed up very seriously.”

Written by Debabrata Mohanty | Bhubaneswar | Updated: November 2, 2015 4:45:39 am
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Stressing that he did not want a “zero district” in Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has urged state officials to implement a development plan for Nabarangpur — from filling administrative vacancies, ensuring rural electrification and appointing government doctors with fixed tenures to launching a maize mission for farmers.

In a clear reference to District Zero, the title of the year-long assignment by The Indian Express on India’s poorest district, Patnaik told officials during a video-conference on October 14: “None of our districts should be a zero district at the national level. This has to be followed up very seriously.”

According to official sources, the issues covered in the meeting included health, irrigation, agriculture, fisheries, rural electrification, education, reorganisation of gram panchayats and a communication strategy.

Of these, sources said, the Chief Minister wanted priority to be given to the health sector and directed officials to ensure postings for assistant surgeons at government facilities in Nabarangpur for fixed tenures.

According to sources, Patnaik said: “If any policy change is required let us… do it. I want this done before next month’s meeting.” The Chief Minister also said he was “very concerned about poor electrification” in Nabarangpur’s villages and told officials that the government has “to run the extra mile to improve this”, sources said.

Last month, Patnaik had assigned three additional chief secretary-rank officers to focus on developmental work in backward districts, including Nabarangpur.

When contacted, additional chief secretary of finance, R Balakrishnan, who has been tasked with the development of Nabarangpur, told The Indian Express that while some steps have been taken, “it would take some time before we start seeing the results on ground”.

While launching the assignment on August 15, The Indian Express had reported on how Nabarangpur is placed at the bottom on key indicators: a literacy rate of 46.43 per cent (the national average is 74.04 per cent); approximately one government doctor for 27,000 people; and 1,667 hamlets without electricity (only 12.6 per cent households use electricity as the source of lighting, against the national average of 67.2 per cent).

Besides, the area under maize cultivation has come down from 2.25 lakh acres in 2006-07 to 38,521 acres in 2015-16 owing to rising input costs and lack of assured procurement.

MISSION NABARANGPUR

Following are the list of reforms for Nabarangpur discussed during a review meeting chaired by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik:

ADMINISTRATION
* Proposal to create a new revenue sub-division with headquarters in Umerkote.
* Proposal by district collector to create 21 new gram panchayats to effectively monitor and administer various programmes.
* Filling up more than 60 district-level vacancies, ranging from deputy collector to assistant fisheries officer, possibly for fixed tenures.

AGRICULTURE
* Maize mission to improve productivity, add value and link markets.
* Action plan for promoting farmer-producer organisations, storage infrastructure and primary processing, involving government departments, banks, private sectors and research institutes.
* Remove checkgates operated by Regulated Market Committees to prevent “extortion” by taxing small farmers instead of focusing on large-scale traders.

EDUCATION
* Vacancies of siksha sahayaks (teaching assistants) in primary education to be addressed on priority.

ELECTRIFICATION
* Strategy for complete electrification under various central and state plans.

HEALTHCARE
* Short-tenure rotation posting for specialist doctors at the district headquarters and community health centres through a six-month mechanism.
* Flexible and location-specific incentive allowance and comprehensive HR policy for doctors.

IRRIGATION & FISHERIES
* Plan to bring more areas under irrigation by providing at least 35 per cent coverage to all blocks with definite timelines and accountability.
* Energise 839 borewells before March 31, 2016.
* Plan to increase area for inland fishery as Nabarangpur has “good potential”.

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