Of late, a refreshing change has been noticed in the grassroots administration in Odisha. District collectors are no longer confining themselves to their stately offices and lording over administration, but actually going out to the midst of people and inspiring change through their actions.
There is a spirit of proactiveness to lead from the front and deal with issues on the ground. Ganjam Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange stepped into an agriculture field recently and transplanted paddy sapling with farmers while sensitising them on the proper and scientific method of doing so.
The impact would percolate to the community. CM Naveen Patnaik also tweeted his appreciation for Kulange and his Kendrapara counterpart Samarth Verma, who had turned a mathematics teacher in a high school. Gajapati collector Anupam Saha’s ‘Teach Gajapati’ where volunteers and government officers are enlisted as teachers in schools has won praise from PM Narendra Modi. Cuttack Collector B S Chayani has taken another commendable step where officers are going door to door to hear people’s grievances and solve them.
The trigger no doubt has been Naveen Patnaik himself, who in 2017 rolled out his governance mantra of 3Ts—teamwork, technology and transparency—and asked collectors to act as agents of change at the grassroots. With two new Ts—time and transformation—added recently, the grassroots administration itself has moved towards transformative change.
However, the efforts can slip into mere photo-ops if not complemented with action. Real issues like lack of support for farmers, vacancies in educational institutions, infrastructure shortcomings leading to people still being carried in slings or shoulders, absence of basic amenities and people not getting proper access to services and schemes across rural Odisha are stark reminders of the decades-long neglect. The New Collector has to prove his mettle by ensuring intent is followed by transformative action.