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Odisha CM’s close aide VK Pandian gets cabinet minister rank after voluntary retirement from IAS

Bhubaneswar (Odisha) : Former IAS officer VK Pandian has been appointed as chairman of 5T (Transformational Initiative) and ‘Nabin Odisha’ in the rank of Cabinet Minister under the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik-led government, a government order said on Tuesday.
“Shri VK Pandian is hereby appointed as Chairman ST (Transformational Initiatives) and Nabin Odisha in the rank of Cabinet Minister. Shri Pandian shall work directly under the Chief Minister,” the letter read.

This came a day after the Centre approved the voluntary retirement of the IAS officer, who has been serving as private secretary to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
VK Pandian is a 2000-batch Odisha cadre IAS officer. He started his career as a civil servant as a sub-collector in Dharmagarh, located in Kalahandi district. Pandian subsequently served as a collector in the Mayurbhanj and Ganjam districts before transitioning to his role in the Chief Minister’s office.
In the last 10 years since joining, Pandian has played a key role in many crucial decisions of the Patnaik government.
Prior to seeking Voluntary retirement VK Pandian served as 5T Secretary to the State Government. 5T is a charter of governance which emphasises Transparency, Technology, Teamwork, Time leading to Transformation. This the state government says ensures the speedy completion of many projects.
Pandian also played a key part in mega projects such as Sri Jagannath Heritage Corridor. The Srimandir Parikrama project which is likely to be completed this year will create an unobstructed 75-metre corridor around the outer wall of the Shree Jagannath Temple. Upon completion, devotees will get an obstructed view of the temple from a distance. The corridor will also provide amenities for devotees and strengthen security around the complex.
Along with Srimandir Pandian also supervised the Odisha government initiative of renovation and restoration of ancient and revered temples throughout the state.
In September Pandian completed his tour of all 147 assembly constituencies in the state bringing an end to his six-month-long visit to all the districts in the state.
During the tours he discussed with the local people about their pressing problems, and visited heritage tourism sites to review the development of their infrastructure under the 5T programme. During the Covid pandemic Pandian had also extensively toured the state to check the preparedness of hospitals and health professionals.
Pandian is also said to be the man behind the Odisha governments flagship program Mo Sarkar. Mo Sarkar is aimed at injecting professionalism and a sustained behavioural change in public offices and functionaries through a random feedback mechanism that directly connects the government with the citizens. This initiative evaluates government services based on citizen feedback and their experiences while facing government offices and other similar interfaces. The Odisha government says it has enabled closer scrutiny of the services being delivered to the citizens by the government.
Pandian’s retirement however didn’t go down well with the opposition who saw political motive behind the move.
“He has been a fine civil servant and helped Naveen Patnaik enormously. But it is good that a de facto situation will finally become a de jure one, and Pandian will become a political figure in his own right. It was a strange situation in Odisha for over a decade and a half with the CM being like an absentee landlord and his chief aide functioning as the state’s CEO,” Congress MP Jairam Ramesh posted on X.

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