Would plethora of new schemes in Odisha yield desired objective?

While the outlay for Odisha’s annual budget (2017-18) crossing the Rs 1 lakh crore mark is being termed as a record of sorts, similarly, schemes/programmes announced in the budget is yet another record of sorts.

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Around half a dozen new schemes/programmes have been added in the budget to the already existing host of schemes/programmes.

While allocations made for these new schemes/programmes draw attention, what turns more eyeballs to these schemes is their nomenclature- an attempt to pay obeisance to state’s legendary personalities by innovatively naming these schemes.

In the last 16 years of Naveen Patnaik’s rule, barring Gopabandhu and Madhusudan Das, late Chief Minister and Naveen’s father, Biju Patnaik had a near monopoly over the name of any scheme/programme announced by the state government.

The state government, in a clear shift from its insatiable desire of ‘chasing Biju babu’s dreams’ has remembered some of the illustrious personalities of the state, which is a welcome development, has named schemes/programmes in the names of Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, the leader of the historic Paika Revolt; Gangadhar Meher, renowned Odia poet of 19th century also known as Swabhab Kavi and Malati Choudhury, freedom fighter and torchbearer of women’s movement in Odisha. Earlier, a Rs 7600 crore mega lift irrigation scheme has been named after Parvati Giri, a noted freedom fighter and social reformer.

Some of the schemes even have attractive names- like the scheme for Puri’s holistic development- ABADHA (Augmentation of Basic Amenities and Development of Heritage and Architecture), Buxi Jagabandhu Assured Water Supply to Habitations (BASUDHA)-to provide drinking water to both rural areas and urban pockets.

The state government has always emphasized on ‘innovative thinking’ for finding solutions to problems faced by the people as well as in expediting development process.

Though we are not sure of experiencing the feel of in any other sphere we are certainly getting a feel of a great exercise in ‘innovative thinking’ involved in the naming the schemes.

With beautiful sounding names, allocations for these schemes in the budget are also not disappointing.

But still one is forced to harbour doubts whether implementation of these schemes/programmes will be as successful as compared to the beauty of their names? Will the programmes achieve the purpose they have been designed to achieve? Will these programmes/ schemes achieve desired objective? Will these schemes/programmes named after legends not turn out to be much ado about nothing?

Such apprehensions coming to one’s mind is natural and not illogical. The reason being the state government’s record so far in implementation of schemes/programmes is not that encouraging.

Often imprint of ‘innovative thinking’ that is found in the formulation and nomenclature of the schemes/programmes of the state government, is lost at the implementation stage.

Due to lack of minimum sincerity and involvement at the implementation stage several schemes/programmes end up missing their respective targets/objectives.

Extension of irrigation facilities, one of the pet/favourite programme of Naveen Patnaik led government is one such bright example in this context.

In the last one and half decade, this government has started several schemes from ‘Jal Niddhi’ to Parvati Giri Lift Irrigation for extension of irrigation facilities in the state.

The state government has taken up large irrigation project, sinking of wells for irrigation purpose, construction of check dams, digging of ponds for farming, etc to augment irrigation in the state. In 2005, the state government had announced that it will extend irrigation facilities to a minimum of 35% land in each block.

Even after lapse of 12 long years ever since the state government made the announcement 102 out of the 314 blocks are yet to have irrigation facilities for 35% of their land. Construction work in ten mega irrigation projects is continuing. While the projects are not getting completed, the outlay goes on increasing. In its fourth term Naveen Patnaik led government announced that irrigation facilities will be extended to additional 10 lakh hectares of land.

According to the Governor’s address at the outset of the budget session for 2017-18, infrastructure for extending irrigation in 2.94 lakh hectares has been created and in 2017-18 irrigation facilities will be extended to another 2.95 lakh hectare.

Taking the current pace into consideration if we assume that another 2 lakh hectares will come under irrigation still the target of extending irrigation to 10 lakh hectares by 2019 won’t be achieved.

It is now abundantly clear that in the field of irrigation schemes are being announced with lofty targets. But in reality due to anomalous and tardy implementation, the targets are not achieved.

State of affairs in spheres of rural electrification, drinking water supply, construction of pucca houses, construction of roads and bridges is no different from that of irrigation.

There are programmes also there is no dearth of funds but progress of work is not up to the expectation.

As its consequence, despite heavy outlay the outcome is partially good. Return of funds due to non-utilization every year also clearly points to inefficient and ineffective implementation of programmes by the government machinery.

According to facts placed before the House by the government, in between 2007-08 to 2015-16 on an average over Rs 4000 crore provisioned in the budget remains unutilized. In the two-year span of 2014-15 and 2015-16 about Rs 19,000 crore has not been utilized. In such situations how is a budget with bigger outlay beneficial? Non-utilization of allocations in the budget outlay in the case of a development deficient state like ours is simply unfortunate. It is no doubt affecting development.

One of the reasons for poor implementation of programmes is shortage of employees. Around 1.5 lakh posts in the state government are lying vacant.

Both number of schemes/programmes, fund size for their implementation have increased, but what has hit implementation is large number of vacancies in the government. Owing to lack of supervision at the implementation level due to poor staff strength, number of complaints alleging poor quality work has gone up.

Apart from filling up of vacancies, there is need for removing certain structural anomalies for successful implementation of programmes.

Moreover, fixing of accountability with regard to utilization and effective execution will help in successful implementation.

It is not sufficient that there should be ‘innovative thinking’ at the concept and nomenclature levels only but it should also reflect in the implementation, otherwise it will turn out as much ado about nothing and end up as insult to the illustrious sons of the  state on whose names those have been named.