Conflict Resolution Missing


On 20 May 2018, lawyers across the State heaped praise on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for his announcement of enhancement of contribution to the Advocates’ Welfare Fund from Rs.3 crore to Rs.5 crore from 2019 and to upgrade Madhusudan Law College to a University of Law.

On 31 October 2018, the same lawyers across Odisha burnt effigies of Chief Minister in every nook and corner of the State over their anger due to alleged non-intervention of the State Government to settle a minor issue of a constable beating a Cuttack-based advocate.

The petty matter, which could have been settled at Police Station level, blew up to such an extent that lawyers were up in arms.
This is not the lone case, teachers, government employees, farmers, lawyers of Western Odisha and other sections are hitting the streets now and then creating problem for the law and order enforcement authorities. The police, which are supposed to be the immediate mechanism to resolve the matter, is found to be allegedly complicating the matter.

The entire state appears to be in an agitation mood and the government wakes up, only when situation is aggravated. There are scores of organizations, which have opened their offices as the winter session of the State Legislative Assembly is nearing.

It is said that the Naveen Patnaik government during its 18 years of rule has formulated schemes and programmes for all sections of the society from farmers to teachers, from advocates to journalists, for construction workers, kendu leaf collectors and government employees. Specific schemes are rolled out and people also praise Naveen for his unique schemes. But, what for do people hit the streets and agitate?

Yes, rise of opposition may be a factor for the agitation against the state government. But this is not the sole reason for which the people are agitating. Block grant teachers, who were a year ago getting a paltry salary of Rs 18,000 a month, now have been entitled to get Rs 38,000 per month and block grant system is replaced by the grant-in-aid formula. Still, the teachers are in the streets; they stopped teaching in classes for two months and closed about 1500 colleges and 4,000 schools for about a month.

Why do such things happen and get aggravated in spite so many schemes for the betterment of different sections?

The root cause lies with the Government, which has developed complacency, probably for overstaying in power. It is natural that issues and problems will come up. The responsibility of the Government is to resolve them quickly and should not allow them to gather momentum.

In the present case, the Government prefers to remain silent for months together and wait till the agitations face natural deaths. However, under the changed political situation with opposition becoming strong, there is no natural death of agitations. The opposition fuels agitations, which continue to linger for longer time.

The Government, which ignores issues and resentments initially, finally wakes from slumber and tries to appease agitators. The fact remains that the State Government is not having a robust Conflict Resolution System.

There is no such mechanism to deal with issues and resolve the conflicts as and when they come to the fore. The State’s failure of the conflict resolution became visible when advocates burnt effigies of the Chief Minister in the presence of Police and public.

Had the effigies been burnt by opposition political parties, things would have been different. This time, the act was done by non-political outfits like Bar Associations. The lawyers were considered as intelligent people and they were forced to take the extreme step as the Government utterly failed to resolve a case involving an advocate and a constable.

This is the right time where Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik must take stock of the situation and make introspection as to why the conflict resolution system often failed in the election year. The people at the helm, who are supposed to resolve the issues, are found to be silent, thus allowing resentments to grow.

The politicians in the ruling BJD appeared to be least bothered on what is happening to the public. Most of the leaders, even Ministers, preferred to keep themselves away from the controversy and wanted others to resolve the issue. In the process, the disputes are blown out of proportion.

Take for instance, the violence in Puri over making queue for Darshan at Shri Mandir. Though the government has no ill intention, the issues become big and cause law and order problem. The people at the helm do not take responsibility to resolve the issues. They also surprisingly prefer to buy time and allow issues to grow.
Take for instance, drought declaration in nine districts of western Odisha. The State Government on October 31 issued a Gazette notification declaring drought only after the farmers in these nine districts agitated. Collectors did not react to the situation though it was pointed out by higher ups.
Why did the District Collectors not bother to report to the Government about the moisture stress condition before the farmers hitting the street? It appears that the Government takes action only after people hit to the streets.

It is time the Chief Minister fixed responsibility with the Ministers. Ministers are feeling helpless as they lack authority to for conflict resolution. So, they prefer to remain quiet until somebody more powerful interferes.This sort of delayed response to conflicts are needed to be addressed as soon as possible.

While things are in fact going out of control, it is providing ample fodder to the opposition. And hyperactive BJP, which is on an aggressive mood, is gaining ground despite the fact BJD government has opened its kitty for the people. So, one thing is clear, one may dole out everything for people; but if conflicts are not resolved in time, it will have its serious impact on the ruling party in 2019.

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