Bhubaneswar, Dec 12: Some may dismiss it as a trivial incident in an administrative setup and others may find it a vital clue to delve deeper into what is happening in the governance system led by five-time chief minister and ruling BJD president Naveen Patnaik.
Hours after the state school and mass education (SME) minister Samir Ranjan Das and Higher education department (DHE) secretary Saswat Mishra announced plans for reopening schools and colleges from January, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday expressed his disapproval of such statements and said appropriate decision would be taken at the right time.
Taking note of the statements of Mr Dash and Mr Mishra during his review of Covid-19 situation in the state, Naveen said that any decision on reopening of schools and colleges will be taken after considering all aspects.
On Thursday morning, the minister had said there is a likelihood of reopening schools across Odisha in January 2021. He had also mentioned that in the event a decision on reopening schools in January is arrived at, priority will be given to conducting classes for Class X and XII standards so as to facilitate students appearing the board examinations next year.
Prior to the minister’s remark, the office of Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) had given its nod for reopening of schools in December. However, the school and mass education department had decided not to reopen the schools till December end as a part of extra precaution in view of the Covid-19 situation.
“That’s why we are gearing up for reopening of schools from January next year,” Mr Dash clarified while indicating about his department’s decision to reopen the school.
The minister’s announcement had come minutes after the state education secretary Saswat Mishra announced plans for reopening colleges and universities in the New Year while shifting semester examinations by a couple of months.
Mr Mishra had clearly stated that the resumption of normal classes had become imperative in order to make up for the class-room studies of students as chances of more students failing in exams looms large in on line classes.
Let’s sample this: A senior bureaucrat announces a decision of the department he heads; the departmental minister just re-announces the resolve and justifies it saying the office of the SRC had given its nod for reopening the decision in December and yet they find the CM disapproving it.
What does it signify? Does it point to a great missing link between the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) and the offices of the ministers? Or, it just confirms what is being discussed in political circles – Complete control of the CMO over his ministerial colleagues and their departmental affairs?
Political circles are often abuzz with gossips that ministers in Naveen Patnaik’s council of ministers are just holding ceremonial positions sans real power. They are just putting their signatures and office seals in the decisions taken by the CMO.
In The past, starting from June 2005 when the memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with Posco for a 12-million-tonne steel plant at Paradip, ministers are not often taken on board in crucial decisions. Present Andhra Pradesh governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan who was then Odisha’s industry minister was sitting in his official chamber while the MoU was being signed.
It may be mentioned here that educational institutions in the state have been closed for over eight months since the lockdown was imposed on March 23, 2020. While medical colleges have reopened from December 1, the government had authorised the SME and DHE to explore opening of schools from 9th to 12th in a graded manner in consultation with stakeholders.