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As Naveen Patnaik turns 75, here is a look at how he continues to win hearts in Odisha

By Anuj Cariappa
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Bhubaneswar, Oct 16: Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik turns 75 today. The popular CM has however decided not to celebrate his birthday on account of COVID-19, his office said.

In March, Patnaik completed 20 years as the Chief Minister of Odisha. Among the many records set by him, one is that he is the longest serving chief minister of the state.

As Naveen Patnaik turns 74, here is a look at how he continues to win hearts in Odisha

His father Biju Patnaik never entertained the thought of any of his family members entering politics. However after the demise of the senior Patnaik in 1997, his party colleagues who were then part of the Janata Dal chose Naveen Patnaik to contest the by-elections from his father's Lok Sabha seat.

Naveen Patnaik then broke away from the Janata Dal and formed a regional party, the Biju Janata Dal. Since then the BJD went on to win all the general elections in the first. The first election was won with the BJP, but since 2009 all the elections were won on its own.

COVID-19 situation: Naveen Patnaik not to celebrate birthday

Patnaik has been termed as a sincere worker and reformer. In February Patnaik got a resolution passed in the state assembly which enables the state commission for backward classes to conduct a survey on the social and educational conditions of the OBCs.

Following this the state government moved the Centre requesting it to conduct a socio-economic caste enumeration along with the general census of 2021. This would go a long way in the upkeep of the interests of the OBCs.

One of Patnaik's main thrust has been on citizen centric governance. In this context the focus has been on the 5 Ts- technology, transparency, teamwork, time and transformation. Under this programme, the Chief Minister himself, his officers phone the common people. During the call the common people would be asked if they are getting all the government services property. Patnaik appointed his private secretary V K Pandian as the secretary and he makes surprise visits to different places such as medical colleges of the government to ensure that the government schemes are implemented.

Patnaik has maintained a Mr. Clean image and has given a thrust to fighting corruption.

While a former MLA of the ruling BJD was recently arrested from Kalahandi in a disproportionate assets case, the government has also made several tainted officers resign and their pensions have been stopped.

One of the biggest challenges that Patnaik faced when he took over in 2000 was the super cyclone, which had claimed thousands of lives and caused a huge amount of damage. Odisha has been hit by several cyclones including Cyclone Fani in 2019. However Patnaik ensured that the state is now equipped to face such disasters. He has even been hailed on several forums including internationally.

Patnaik is one of the few chief ministers to introduce a maximum number of social welfare measures. The KALIA scheme for farmers introduced is equivalent to the PM-Kisan scheme of the Centre. He also introduced the Re 1 per kg rice scheme for the poor. In terms of resources, the ongoing auction of mines has come in handy for the Odisha government.

Recently Union Minister for Steel Dharmendra Pradhan met with Patnaik along with Japanse ambassador to India. Japan is looking for investment opportunities in Odisha.

Moreover Odisha will earn substantially from the auction of mines. JSW which has replaced POSCO India at Paradeep will set up a steel plant there.

Odisha's economically has been consistently growing at a higher rate when compared to the national growth. In the past seven years, the average growth of Odisha has remained at around 8 per cent when compared to the national average of 6.9 per cent. The finance minister of the state, Niranjan Pujari said that despite the slowdown in the global and national economy, Odisha's economy is expected to grow at 6.16 per cent in 2019-20.

This is above the national average of 5 per cent.

Further Odisha has emerged as a favourable investment destination and has attracted a record 18 per cent of the total investment in the country as per the CMIE Data 2019.

Pujari also said that the state is expected to grow in the range of 7 to 7.5 per cent during 2020-21. In the agriculture sector, state's average growth is 4.5 per cent which is higher than the national average of 3.1 per cent. Odisha has even been awarded five Krishi Karman awards by the Centre continuously.

PM Modi wishes Naveen Patnaik on his birthday

The Odisha government has also set up four new medical colleges and there are seven in the pipeline. One of the first AIIMS was set up in Bhubaneswar and the government has also decided to transform the oldest medical college, SCB Medical College into a state of the art facility and turn it into an AIIMS Plus integrated medical institution with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore in the next two years. On March 5, Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the same.

In March, Patnaik announced that the state government will provide 20 lakh concrete houses to the rural poor in the next four years The state has already provided 25 lakh concrete houses to the beneficiaries.

The chief minister also ensured that the Hockey World Cup 2018 was held successfully at the Kalinga Stadium at Bhubaneswar. The state is also building world class sporting infrastructure. This despite the fact that Patnaik had not shown much interest in his early years as CM.

This year Patnaik announced the creation of a new department Mission Shakti for self help groups. The announcement was made March 8, which is International Women's Day. This also reflects in the fact that the BJD has received a large number of women votes.

One of the biggest challenges that Patnaik has faced in recent times is the fight against COVID-19. Earlier this month the World Health Organisation (WHO) praised the Odisha government for its effective management of the pandemic. "Evacuating the stranded people safely while adhering to social distancing measures was challenging but the state's experience in disaster management helped in managing the situation. Effective governance in collaboration with Panchayati Raj Institutions and community-based response strategy enabled the resilient state to contain the spread of the virus," WHO said.

While praising the state's COVID-19 management, the article also highlighted other key features that resulted in the lower number of cases. When the first case was reported on March 15, the state control rooms had been made operational. Capacity building of the district level health officials on preparedness and response activities, and public awareness campaigns on hand washing and respiratory etiquettes were already initiated.

A CVoter survey that was conducted in June had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still ahead in the most popular PM race. The survey also says that Naveen Patnaik is the most popular chief minister. CVoter said that it conducted the largest, definitive survey called," State of the Nation 2020:May," comprising responses from over 3,000 people from each state and Union Territory.

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