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Naveen Patnaik meets PM Narendra Modi but ignores 'Swachh Bharat' campaign
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for a 'Swachh Bharat' (Clean India) has created a tremendous amount of interest in the media as well as amongst the citizens. But, in Odisha it is a non starter for the state government or says only a central government sponsored initiative for all practical purposes.
While the whole of India participated in the launching of the sanitation drive on 2nd October, pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri, Odisha government has chosen to look the other way.

Odisha's performance on the sanitation front has been abysmally poor. Census 2011 report on the household amenities has brought out that 78% of the total households in Odisha defecate in the open. 75.32 lakh households in Odisha do not have latrines. It has been revealed that in the rural areas 86% of the households in the state do not have latrines and defecated in the open.

For the urban Odisha 35% of the population do not have the latrines. It has been estimated that the state loses more than 10 crore persons days every year due to water contamination.

Odisha also is on the fore front of infant mortality rate in the whole of the country. As per the census 2011 statistics, the figures meted out by the state government draws a rosy picture on sanitation. The Strategic Plan for the Drinking Water and Sanitation claims that by March 2012 the coverage of independent household latrines in the state was 59.12% of the households.

And at this prevailing rate of growth the State naturally expects that 100% coverage will be achieved by March 2019, that is, before the date that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set for the great tribute of the nation to the father of the nation. This means that Odisha will be an open defecation free state by the 2019 with the business as usual scenario.   

Between the two pictures by the Census and the State government certainly the Census is more reliable as it is not linked to the fund release and target realization. And the gap between the two is too wide to be ignored. Considering the number of households having individual household latrines (under various schemes) and the households having latrines as per the census, and application of simple mathematics takes us to a situation where about 15 lakh latrines have gone missing. That is they are claimed to be in existence but in reality do not exist.

This accounts for about 45 % of the latrines claimed to have been installed by the state government and other agencies are nonexistent at present. And that is for the rural Odisha only. With so many latrines gone missing, the Chief Minister of the state certainly should have lost his sleep. But Naveen Patnaik has never shown any such signs. And those who are in the know of the things on the sanitation front say that there is also no sign the state will be anywhere near 100% coverage by 2019.

On the occasion of Gandhi and Shastri Jayanti, Clean India campaign was launched at Bhubaneswar railway station by Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and at Rourkela railway station by Union minister Jual Oram. The public were administered the oath by these ministers.

Airports Authority of India, Indian Oil in Odisha, National Aluminum Company Limited (NALCO), NABARD Odisha Regional Office, Rourkela Steel Plant and many schools and residential societies took part in the Clean India campaign. A marked interest has been observed among the common people. It may be due to the Modi mania, or the images of the central ministers and the celebrities wielding brooms or even a sort of suffocation in the filth around.

But there was absolutely no effort from the side of the state government to make the most of the situation. Well it is a fact that the broom alone cannot change the sanitation situation of the state, unless and until the issue of open defecation, and solid and liquid wastes is addressed at fundamental level. Leave aside the fundamentals, the state government even did not bother to take the initiative even at the symbolic level.

Odisha Government has completely ignored the nationwide Clean India campaign. Most of the ministers were camping in Kandhamal for the by-poll of Lok Sabha seat, vacated due to the death of the sitting MP Hemendra Singh. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik took part in a padyatra organized by the ruling BJD to reach to the people to highlight the achievements of his government.

This apathy of the government for the cause of sanitation has brought the ruling BJD under severe attack. But the response of the BJD was really appalling. One of the spokes persons of BJD said, "The campaign is being started from 2nd October, it is not the last date. It will be started later in Odisha. We have been conducting thisJan Sampark Abhijan every year. This has to go on"

Such indifference from the state government has led to the apprehension that may be Naveen Patnaik will not take part in the clean India campaign. But Sandeep Pattanaik who keeps an eye on drinking water and sanitation has a different opinion. 'By deliberate avoidance of the clean India campaign in the state, Patnaik is playing safe.

Patnaik knows it very well that he might be able to pull votes riding on his clean image and populist schemes but when it comes to inspiring people to take up sanitation in a big way he is no good due to his oratory limitations and lack of charisma over the common people.

More over Patnaik does not like to toe any other leader, particularly so of the ruling party at the Centre. Such an act will dilute his ever consistent 'Centre's neglect' position. And Patnaik is a smart politician and he knows that sweeping the streets do not get the central assistance. When the sanitation drive will result is more concreted schemes and financial allocations he certainly will raise the 'Centre's neglect' issue to get a larger chunk of the pie. It is a different matter that the state government is not able to spend the allocated money."

It will be interesting to observe how the Swachh Bharat campaign will take shape in the state of Odisha. Will the acts of the Union government be able to break the ice on the sanitation front and will the state government continue with its indifference despite an abysmally poor state of affairs in Odisha are the questions that the Odias will be seeking answers to.

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