Bhubaneswar: The recent reshuffle of bureaucrats post-elections has proved once again that the Tourism department has remained an ‘experimental ground’ for the babus.
In the last five years, statistics shows, many IAS officers and other bureaucrats who joined the department as directors or secretaries have served it for a very short period, ranging from just one month to maximum four months. The recent reshuffle seems to vindicate the point. As per the Tourism department’s own admission, its incumbent director Bibhuti Bhushan Patnaik assumed office February 18, 2019 and within four months he has been transferred.
According to a notification of the General Administration department issued June 21, 2019, Patnaik has been made the Registrar of Cooperative Societies. On the other hand, the Director of Technical Education and Training Nirmal Chandra Mishra has been appointed as the new Director of Odisha Tourism.
Moreover, there are many cases where several secretaries and directors holding the tourism portfolio as an additional charge and bigger departments are reported to be keeping them busy in their work. It is also seen that many of them with additional charge pay less attention to the Tourism department, sources claimed.
“The main problem with such abrupt and quick transfers of the decision makers is that even before a director or secretary gets some insights into the departmental issues he/she leaves the department. Many projects of the department are now pending due to such experiments,” said a source in the department.
Such experiments come at a time when projects like the Dhauli ropeway, announced in 2015, and many other projects are hanging in balance. At the same time, the department is also said to be struggling to cope with a huge number of vacancies of tourist officers in several districts while the head office in the state capital is said to be over-staffed. With frequent changes at the top, many of such decisions are not taken as the officers are transferred even before they settle down well.
An RTI response from the department recently had claimed that there were many tourism directors who had been shunted within months of assuming office, paralysing the department’s work.
Written replies from the department have revealed some classic cases. For example, former tourism director Anil Samal joined and served the department for only five months – from June to November 2015. Archana Patnaik, another IAS officer, served only for three months between September and December 2018.
Many others also continued to join the league as the state government continued to transfer IAS officers from the department frequently.
The department, meanwhile, has been entrusted with the task of boosting tourism in the state, increasing employment through tourism, maintain heritage sites and attract foreign investments into the region. The dimensions of tourism seem to have been affected by such frequent ‘experiments’ with the department.
The Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC), a constituent body of the state government which also works towards tourism sector, is often served by the Tourism Director as an additional charge also takes a toll on overall growth of tourism due to such changes.