Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Dismisses Ministers-Versus-Officers Issue

Patnaik said in the assembly that the CM Grievance Cell has always been handled by the CMO, and ministers are not required to attend meetings, in which people seek redressal of their grievances, in Bhubaneswar. 

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday asserted that no ministers-versus-officers issue exists in the state, dismissing criticisms from various quarters over holding of people’s grievance meetings by a controversial CMO official.

Patnaik said in the assembly that the CM Grievance Cell has always been handled by the CMO, and ministers are not required to attend meetings, in which people seek redressal of their grievances, in Bhubaneswar. 

As the opposition alleged that there was huge expenditure on the chopper ride of the CMO officials, especially Patnaik’s private secretary V K Pandian, an IAS officer of the 2000 batch, the chief minister said no excess expenditure was made.

Stating that the CM Grievance Cell is always handled by the CMO, Patnaik said adding that once petitions are received, they are sent to the departments concerned. 

“Where is the issue of ministers versus officers in this?” the chief minister asked. 

Noting that the ministers have played a major role as heads of the departments in resolving the petitions, he said it is teamwork at the highest level and is professionally done in a democratic set-up. 

“The aim is to resolve people’s grievances in the best possible manner,” Patnaik said. 

He said as many as 57,442 petitioners, most of which are community petitions, have been received during the months-long grievances held by the CMO.

“Otherwise, the people would have to come to the CM Grievance Cell in Bhubaneswar. How much money would they have to spend on travel and stay? How much wage loss would they have? All these have been saved by the CM Grievance Cell travelling to the doorsteps of people,” Patnaik said. 

Of those 57,442 petitions, 43,536 have been resolved or disposed of, he said wondering how someone could be unhappy if people’s grievances are redressed.

Referring to chopper use by officials, Patnaik said, “I would like to clarify that it would have taken one and half years to do the same exercise by road. Conducting three to five meetings daily in different locations is humanly impossible within a window of 10 am to 3 pm. This period is convenient to people. 

“In the last three and half years, we have spent about Rs 40 crore on chopper”. 

Earlier this month, the opposition BJP has alleged that Rs 500 crore has been spent from the state exchequer on the tours of Pandian so far.

Patnaik, however, said that on an average, Rs 1 to Rs 1.5 crore is spent on chopper every month.

“In the past six months when chopper was used intensively to reach out to the people, the average expenditure was the same - around Rs 1 to 1.5 crore per month. It’s completely false and misleading to say that excess expenditure has been made,” the chief minister said. 

He informed the Assembly that the CM grievance cell has conducted meetings in all constituencies in a professional manner. 

“This exercise was also used to explain to people about the schemes of the state government, the ongoing projects in their areas and the funds sanctioned for the same,” the ruling BJD president said. 

“It was my specific instruction to give timelines for resolving grievances. I sincerely appreciate ministers, the district administrations, the CMO, the departments and all others involved in carrying out this mammoth exercise so professionally,” Patnaik said. 

He also called upon the Opposition members to be happy that so many grievances in their areas have also been resolved. 

“I do not understand how someone can oppose solving of people’s grievances. Such opposition is anti-people and people will give them a befitting reply for such attitude. After all, we are in public service and peoples’ grievances are our topmost priority,” he said. 

Patnaik said the mammoth grievance hearing exercise was carried out in more than 190 locations over a period of six months. 

Every day, three to five venues were covered and in the process, 57,442 petitions were collected from people, and as on date 43,536 petitions have been resolved or disposed of, he said.

“People are happy… Opposition members should not be unhappy because of political reasons. For my government, resolving people’s issues is a top priority and I will continue to do so in the best possible manner,” the chief minister said when BJP members were shouting in well of the Assembly demanding a discussion on the issue related to officers versus ministers.

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