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  Opinion   Columnists  13 Dec 2023  Dilip Cherian | Odisha babus eye giant projects for economic renaissance

Dilip Cherian | Odisha babus eye giant projects for economic renaissance

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Published : Dec 14, 2023, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Dec 14, 2023, 12:00 am IST

Whispers are gaining momentum

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (Photo: PTI/File)
 Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (Photo: PTI/File)

Babus in Odisha are furiously running around trying to find new options for investments. The low-hanging fruits seem to be the many shuttered industries that litter the once-prosperous state.

With the announcement that Welspun Group would take over a long-closed textile facility, there is now hope that one of the other gigantic projects that has been shuttered for many years will also be hacked by the bureaucrats. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik and industries minister Pratap Keshari Deb’s approval for Welspun Living to acquire 350 acres of government-owned land for an integrated textile and logistics facility is a strategic move that aligns with the state’s vision of inclusive development. This initiative alone is expected to generate employment for over 20,000 individuals.

Further, the stated intention to revive a long-closed paper mill demonstrates Chief Minister Patnaik’s proactive approach. By tasking the industry department to identify suitable investors for this facility, the government is signalling its intent to breathe new life into dormant assets, fostering a circular economy and creating opportunities for the local workforce.

Principal secretary of industries Hemant Sharma and several senior babus in the industry department are reportedly prowling the corridors of various industry associations. It has been of great assistance to them that noted industrialist Subhrakant Panda, who heads the premier industry body FICCI, hails from the state. Hopefully, their combined proactive efforts will transform the challenges into opportunities for a brighter economic future for the state.

Who’ll head the 16th Finance Commission?

Whispers are gaining momentum, suggesting that Ratan P. Watal, former Union finance secretary (expenditure) and a retired IAS officer, is being considered for the position of chairman of the Finance Commission. The 15th Finance Commission, led by N.K. Singh, successfully concluded its term last month.

According to well-placed sources, Mr Watal is emerging as the preferred choice within power circles to succeed N.K. Singh in this crucial role. Certainly, his credentials are second to none. The retired 1978 batch IAS officer from the Telangana cadre has a wealth of experience and currently serves on the board of directors at TB Alliance, a global not-for-profit organisation headquartered in New York. Significantly, he has retained a trusted position within the Modi establishment, continuing to contribute his expertise to key issues.

During his tenure as Union finance secretary, he assumed the pivotal role of Principal Advisor for the social sector at Niti Aayog until October 2021. He also played a role in revitalising the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council. If he does get the coveted position at the helm of the Finance Commission, his demonstrated stewardship and continued influence will be pivotal in ensuring an effective fiscal policy.

MHA push for accountability may need balancing

The recent decision by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to revoke the Foreign Contribution Act (FCRA) license of the Church of North India (CNI) has added another layer of complexity to the issue of treatment of minorities in recent times. This move, part of a broader crackdown on NGOs violating FCRA regulations, is not an isolated incident, as numerous NGOs, including well-known entities like Oxfam India, Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and Care India, among others, have faced similar actions in the past year.

Sources have informed DKB that home ministry babus have been hyperactive, reviewing and taking action against organisations found in violation. They state that CNI cannot receive or utilise foreign contributions until the license is renewed.

The move implies an intensified commitment to enforcing FRCA regulations, aimed at preventing the misuse or diversion of foreign funds. However, in the backdrop of the ongoing troubles in Manipur, known for its communal diversity and historical tensions, which led to killings and burnings of several churches of the Christian community, the move may be viewed as a sign of the Centre’s continued mistrust of the minority community in the state.

While the hyperactive home ministry officials rightly believe that accountability is crucial, perhaps a careful assessment of such actions and finding a balance could lead to more nuanced decision-making.

Tags: ministry of home affairs, fcra license, church of north india, minority treatment