Skip to main content

Odisha CM's overreliance on 5T secretary: 'Risk' of centralization, autocratic tendency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* 

The 5T (Teamwork, Technology, Transparency, Time, and Transformation) initiatives introduced by the Government of Odisha aim to enhance governance efficiency and effectiveness. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik emphasizes "the 3Ts of governance: Teamwork, Transparency & Technology leading to Transformation."
He has also introduced "a fifth dimension to this – 'Time'". These vague terms offer nothing new in the history of democratic governance and fail to address the material conditions of deprivation and marginalization for most people in the state.
The 5T initiatives have overly centralized the power of governance and undermined the well-established institutional structures of policy development and implementation. While it is acknowledged that existing institutional structures for development and welfare delivery need reform, the 5T framework is unlikely to bring about the necessary changes. Instead, it serves as a camouflage for government failures, acting as a propaganda tool and functioning like an instant coffee machine.
The ethos, visions, and missions of the 5T initiatives signify more centralization of power and less of a development and governance initiative. However, whether these initiatives represent governance or centralization depends on the specific implementation and outcomes.
With the patronage of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the all-powerful 5T secretary or chairman undermines the political processes of development, thereby working against the deepening of democratic development in the state.
The entire 5T initiatives could be implemented by the existing government departments. What was the need for the creation of a separate power structure that centralizes power and undermines local development institutions in the long run?
The 5T initiatives focus on improving teamwork, leveraging technology, ensuring transparency, and reducing the time taken for decision-making. If effectively implemented, these measures can enhance governance by streamlining processes, reducing bureaucracy, and making government operations more efficient. 
However, the realities of governance and development reveal a different story, where the masses suffer from poverty, underdevelopment, illiteracy, and ill-health. Government intervention in these areas is crucial for the transformation of the material conditions of people in Odisha.
The use of technology and transparency measures can potentially empower citizens by providing them with better access to information, services, and a more responsive government.
However, the availability and accessibility of technological knowledge, skills, infrastructure, and technological consciousness are alien to the majority of the people in the state. Therefore, investment in technological education and infrastructure is central to harvesting technological dividends in the state. The 5T initiative appears elusive in addressing these crucial matters.
By emphasizing teamwork, transparency, and technology, the 5T initiatives may contribute to increased accountability, with a focus on achieving measurable results within a defined timeframe.
These goals can be achieved through the decentralization of power, resources, and responsibilities. However, the 5T over-centralizes power, resources, and responsibilities, which destroys any potential for reform and the transformation of democratic development with transparency.
The recent experiences of the implementation of 5T initiatives show that there is a concentration of decision-making power in a central authority without adequate checks and balances, leading to over-centralization and the exclusion of local voices. The overemphasis on technology and centralized decision-making sidelines the importance of local perspectives and grassroots-level governance, potentially resulting in decisions that do not consider regional variations and specific needs.
The overreliance on the 5T secretary and centralization increases the risk of autocratic tendencies, limiting democratic principles and public participation in decision-making in both the short and long run.
The dustbin of history will record the 5T initiatives in Odisha as another directionless government initiative with fanciful whims and caprices aimed at electoral gains, lacking evidence of social, political, and economic transformation in the interests of the people in the state.
With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's patronage, the all-powerful 5T secretary undermines political processes of development

Time will document the success or failure of the 5T initiatives in Odisha based on the concrete implementation of policies and programs and the extent to which they promote good governance without sacrificing democratic values. It is crucial to strike a balance between efficiency and inclusivity to ensure that these initiatives contribute positively to the state's development. 
Regular evaluation, feedback mechanisms, checks and balances, and adaptability to local contexts will be essential in determining whether the 5T initiatives serve as a tool for effective governance or lead to undesirable centralization in the long run.
The rehabilitation and resettlement of urban slums and housing for slum dwellers stand out as among the notable achievements of the Naveen Patnaik government over the last two decades. However, despite this, Naveen Patnaik has squandered more than two decades of political stability and people's trust in him within the state.
His populist managerial politics, coupled with bureaucratic interventions, has eroded local democratic processes of governance, hindering the deepening of democratic development. His political approach has proven inadequate in transforming caste, class, gender, and regional inequalities.
The evident gap between rural and urban development has widened in the state over the last two decades under his watch. These failures have impeded development and created illusions of transformation. Social progress remains stagnant in terms of democratic, secular, and inclusive consciousness.
This condition serves as a breeding ground for crime, drug-related issues, and reactionary right-wing politics, where Hindutva forces become the sole beneficiaries. How does the 5T fights these uphill battles of transformation?
History of governance and development reveals that the over centralisation of authority and power only helps capitalist development processes to grow that marginalises people, destroys environment, promotes crime and security state, undermines democracy and citizenship rights.
The people of Odisha hope that the 5T initiatives are not geared towards deepening capitalism in the state but rather toward democratic development and the political and economic empowerment of the people.
*University of Glasgow, UK



'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.