“Resurgence with Austerity”

by Akankshya Mahapatra

Pratap Chandra Sarangi

Until he was sworn in as a minister in the Modi government 2.0 and got the loudest applause at the swearing-in ceremony post the 2019 polls, Pratap Chandra Sarangi was barely known outside Odisha. Sarangi had turned an overnight social media hero after his name did the strongest rounds for induction in Modi’s team. Before that, Sarangi was the most glaring face of austerity in Odisha politics, happy and content with his stay in a modest bamboo hut, ministering to his ageing mother and soaked in social work. He could be seen debating feverishly in the Odisha assembly, capable of cornering the fortified treasury benches on a host of politically sensitive issues.

Born on January 4, 1955 at Gopinathpur in Balasore district, Sarangi was a spiritual seeker from his salad days, aspiring to be a monk at the Ramakrishna Math. In fact, he made several visits to Belur Math. From a spiritual seeker to a responsible public figure, Sarangi’s life has almost come a full circle. His commitment to public life commenced as a district level volunteer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and later with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. He has served as the MLA from Nilagiri constituency from 2004 to 2014. In 2014, Sarangi unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Balasore on a BJP ticket. But he turned the tables at the 2019 polls, trouncing heavyweight and sitting MP Rabindra Jena of the BJD in what was billed as the ‘David vs Goliath’ battle.

In his current stint as the Union minister for MSMEs and animal husbandry & fisheries, Sarangi has been anchoring an array of reforms. Equally concerned he is about upgradation of amenities in his home state, Odisha. Recently, he sought special funds from the Centre for filling up of vacant posts at AIIMS Bhubaneswar and its satellite centre in Balasore.

In his second letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on the issue, Sarangi expressed concern over the large number of vacancies in AIIMS, Bhubaneswar.

He said the institute, one of the six set up under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), has higher patient load as compared to its counterparts and this has been creating tremendous pressure on the existing faculty and staff.

“At present funds are uniformly allocated for all the six AIIMS regardless of the vital aspect of patient load. Besides, faculty recruitment has been an issue in AIIMS, Bhubaneswar as the proposal to create additional posts is pending with the apex decision making authority for quite some time,” he said.

Sarangi has also emphasized on the need for development of fisheries related infrastructure in the state and formation of cooperatives in the sector. Formation of cooperatives and use of technology in the sector can go a long way in exploiting the huge fisheries potential in Odisha he said. The minister has also underscored the need to develop sustainable technology for better production keeping the safety of environment in mind and to carry out result-oriented research.

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