Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Dec 27:
Union Petroleum and Natural Gas (PNG) minister Dharmendra Pradhan today rubbished the Odisha government’s charge of central neglect saying it was a case of ‘showing a lantern during day time’.
Addressing a press conference here this afternoon, Pradhan said the Narendra Modi government had unilaterally increased the royalty on minerals, which would benefit mineral bearing statesm including Odisha, immensely.
“Besides, the Centre’s new, transparent coal policy would benefit the eastern states. It will increase their revenue accumulation and production which, in turn, would lead to considerable improvement in their fiscal position,” he said.
The minister said the Centre would invest a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore in the petroleum and natural gas sector in Odisha in the next five years. “This would generate revenue worth Rs 1.5- 2 lakh crore for the state in the coming 15-20 years,” he said to prove his point.
“Even after all this, if the state government says the Centre is neglecting Odisha, I can only say that it is trying to divert the attention of the people by telling lies,” Pradhan said.
Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president Naveen Patnaik, it may be noted, had accused the centre of neglecting the state at the party’s Foundation Day celebrations yesterday.
Talking about the pace of registration of Direct Benefit Transfer of LPG (DBTL) in the State, the minister said though the number is not very encouraging, the Government has directed district Collectors to accelerate the process by organizing camps at distributors’ point.
He said the percentage of registration given by the Food and Supplies Ministry of the state stood at 30 per cent which is targeted at 100 per cent in the next three months.
He also said his ministry would launch a new pilot project providing concession to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families seeking new gas connections in the country.
The project to be launched Jan 25, 2015 will provide subsidy of about Rs 1400 on new gas connections to the BPL families up to March.
“There will be concessional price for new LPG connections to the BPL families. The cheaper LPG connections in rural areas would ensure social and economic inclusion and it would increase gas penetration all over the country,” said Pradhan.
A consumer has to spend Rs 2400 for a new gas connection in the country.
The Minister said the government hads also targeted to increase the gas penetration in Odisha at par with national level.
“While there are around one crore households in Odisha, the number of gas connections is only 25 lakh, which is far below that the national average. It works out to just 27 per cent against the national average of 60 per cent. So, we have decided to increase the consumer base in a time bound manner to reach the national average in the next two years,” said Pradhan.
He said every block will have distribution points in the state to ensure maximum LPG connection in the state
Coming down hard on the Odisha government’s decision to increase VAT on petrol and diesel by 3%, Pradhan said it would affect growth in the state. “The state government is collecting 15-30% VAT on petroleum products. This certainly does not augur well for business in the state. The Narendra Mdoi government proposes to reduce the tax on petroleum products to zero with the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST),” he said.
Turning his attention to the outbreak of jaundice in Sambalpur city, the minister said such a situation would not have arisen if the state government had taken timely action on the RCMR report given to it nearly a year ago. “The government has not been proactive in handling the situation. But the Centre has extended all possible help in combating the situation and I would expect th state government to get its act together even at this late stage,” Pradhan said.