Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 8:
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik today expressed grave concern over arbitrary cuts in the budgeted amount under existing Centrally sponsored schemes, which has resulted in the incompletion of projects, delays and cost overruns.
Addressing the first governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog, convened by prime minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, the chief minister said under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), the Centre had released only Rs 53 crore during 2012-13 and 2013-14 against the allocation of Rs 1888 crore while it allocated a meagre Rs 330 crore in 2014-15. “How do we plan and complete our projects on time?” he asked.
While assuring the Centre that the state government had taken note of issues relating to delays in forest clearances and land acquisition and will take steps to remove these obstacles, Patnaik said a major cause for delay in infrastructure projects is the non-availability of funds for irrigation, rural roads and railway projects which need to be addressed on a priority.
Stating that Odisha faces natural disasters every alternate year with huge adverse impact on the resources of the state, he said the new dispensation must consider these state specific geographical vulnerabilities while deciding on the allocation of resources.
He also said that though Odisha is rich in mineral resources, it is deprived of its due benefits.
Expressing displeasure over some provisions in the recent ordinance on the MMDR Act such as the provision of deemed extension under Section 8A which severely restricts the number of leases that can come up for auction during the next five years, Patnaik suggested that no further extension be given to the leases that have completed 50 years and all such leases be settled afresh through auction.
He also demanded adequate compensation by way of a Green Tax against pollution as Odisha is paying a heavy price in terms of pollution caused by extraction of coal and other minerals.
The chief minister also raised his concern over the gross neglect by the Centre in the growth and development of the railway sector in Odisha.
“Though Odisha is one of the largest contributors to the earnings of Indian Railways, unfortunately the Railway route length and rail density in the state is far below the national average,” he said requesting the Centre for enhanced provision for all the ongoing Railway projects some of which are decades old so that they are completed in the next three years, and sanction new lines for profitable projects and uncovered areas.
Referring to the ADB assisted Vishakhapatnam-Chennai Industrial Corridor and the Eastern India Amritsar-Kolkata Corridor, he said both these corridors have bypassed Odisha, which is a major mineral bearing and port state.
“I hope that this oversight is corrected at the earliest and the Vishakhapatnam-Chennai Corridor is extended till Baleswar,” the chief minister urged.
Stating that his government had accorded top priority to convert all kutcha houses to pucca houses in the rural areas in the next five years which would entail a huge cost of Rs 30,000 crore, he requested the Centre to meet at least 75 percent of the cost.
Talking about the bill introduced by the Union Finance minister to amend the Constitution to facilitate introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST), he said the bill, which provides for compensation to the states for a period of five years only, needs suitable modification to introduce a permanent constitutional mechanism for automatic compensation to the states in case of revenue loss.