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Alleging ‘interference’, Odisha to boycott Niti Aayog meet

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Bhubaneswar: Terming the Centre’s appointment of ‘Prabhari officers’ to supervise development works in Odisha as “interference”, the State government today announced that it will boycott the upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Niti Aayog officials on January 4 and 5 in New Delhi.

The Odisha government expressed displeasure and alleged that the Centre’s appointment of ‘Prabhari (in-charge) Officers’ to supervise development works in eight backward districts in the State was taken without its consultation.

The State government even termed the Centre’s move is an ‘attack on federalism’ and will create disturbance as the State has already given the same task to its own officers.

“The State government officials will not attend the Niti Aayog meeting as the Centre had appointed field officers without our consent,” said BJD Spokesperson Sasmit Patra.

State Finance Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera also reiterated the same.

“The State government wouldn’t be able to cooperate with Centre’s decision of appointing prabhari officers to supervise development works in various districts in the State as it will create confusion,” Behera said.

He also alleged that the Centre is trying to interfere in State’s subject and that too without their consent.

In reply, the BJP said the State government is not serious enough to initiate development works in the backward districts.

“I feel the Odisha government has no seriousness in undertaking development works in backward districts so it is protesting the Centre’s decision,” senior BJP leader and Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram told reporters.

“Why Odisha government is opposing it when the entire nation accepts it?” asks Oram.

Meanwhile, Congress, the principal opposition party in Odisha, smells a rat in the whole matter alleging the two parties – BJP and BJD – are trying to gain mileage out of it.

“Both BJP and BJD are doing politics over it (appointing prabhari officers) with an aim to take credit for the work,” said senior Congress leader Niranjan Patnaik adding officers from the State itself can undertake the same job in the backward districts.

Five districts from Odisha such as Malkangiri, Rayagada, Dhenkanal, Gajapati, Balangir, Kalahandi, Kandhamal and Koraput were selected among 115 most backward districts (MBDs) from 28 states of the country where joint and additional secretaries will be appointed to oversee speedy implementation of government schemes to achieve the Prime Minister’s ‘New India’ mission by 2022.

The prabhari officers were asked to visit their designated districts before December 15. The officials were told to visit their designated districts at least six times a year.

The prabhari officers were asked to coordinate the efforts of the Centre and states by addressing specific development needs of these MBDs.

The districts have been identified based on indicators of backwardness and prevalence of Left-wing extremism.

PM Narendra Modi has called a meeting of the 115 prabhari officers on January 5.