Bhubaneswar: When the British set up the foundations of governance in India, the key principle was regulation. The regulation was important as they had to deal with foreign people and maintaining law and order was critical. A government that had no mandate to rule over a people had to necessarily do so through symbols of authority that were designed to evoke fear.
When the modern Indian democracy was born, it carried many vestiges of the police state with clearly demarcated lines of distinction between the ruler and the ruled. The Lal batti, ceremonial parades, honorific titles, imperious government buildings are all part of this legacy.
People’s government which is the essence of democracy looks at citizens as part of the framework of governance not as the ‘other ‘ to be ruled or governed. True democracies across the world, therefore, have blurred lines of distinction between the government and the citizen. People are the government.
Odisha has been attempting this transformation in the last few days. Renaming the Secretariat to Lok Seva Bhavan may seem a small thing, but it conveys something deeper.
Having a civilian function on Independence Day instead of an arduous parade based one is not only symbolic, but it is also transformative.
The guard of honour given to local officers and ministers is a relic of the past. It signifies ceremony and extreme formality. This has been withdrawn in Odisha.
The title of Honourable that has been used liberally for all will henceforth be used rightly for freedom fighters and constitutional authorities.
These are not ordinary government orders. There is a deep link behind these changes. Odisha is attempting something truly transformative.
Someone has got it right. The systematic demolition of symbols of power and attempting a citizen-led governance model is part of the transformative story of Odisha.
Of course, this is possible also because the elected leader for the last 20 years is none other than Naveen Patnaik- a quiet soft-spoken person whose humility stands out in this age of careful image building. His commitment to his people is matched only with his studious rejection of symbols of pomp and grandeur.