Bhubaneswar, Aug 13:
A day after his party held an agitation demanding special category status to Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the matter saying the criteria fixed for such status by the Planning Commission was ‘superficial’.
“The interpretation of criteria (by Planning Commission for according SCS) appears to be superficial and fails to take a holistic view of the matter, denying what is rightfully due to the State,” Patnaik said in his letter to Singh.
It is to be noted that deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia had turned down the demand of Odisha for the special category tag citing that Odisha does not meet the present criteria.
On May 7, Ahluwalia had conveyed to the State government that Odisha’s demand for SCS did not meet the criteria approved by the National Development Council, such as hilly and difficult terrain; low population density; strategic location along the borders with neighbouring countries; economic and infrastructural backwardness; and non-viable nature of state’s finances.
Interestingly, Ahluwalia’s teasing remarks came at a time when BJD was all set to stage a Swabhiman Rally in Delhi in support of the party’s ‘longstanding’ demand for SCS status, something that surprised many simply because of its timing.
Contesting the Planning Commission deputy chairperson’s argument, Patnaik said more than half the geographical area of the State has hilly and difficult terrain and faces serious connectivity and other infrastructure challenges.
“The State has very low density of population (270 per square kilometre) vis-à-vis the national average of 382 in 2011. Similarly, the concentration of ST/SC population in the State is very high (39.9% in 2011) with very high incidence of poverty (32.6% in 2011-12 as per Tendulkar method) and adverse socio-economic and human development indicators,” said the Chief Minister.
He argued that Odisha is a fit case for grant of SCS as the six states currently enjoying the privilege represent a much lower proportion of ST/SC inhabitants than the eastern India State.
Though Odisha has made significant efforts in reducing poverty by 24.6% points between 2004-05 and 2011-12, it still ranked the sixth highest in terms of incidence of poverty in 2011-12. Its per capita income (Rs 40,412 in 2010-11) is only 67% of the national average and the literacy rate is 73.4% in 2011, the letter said.
“Nine Special Category states have much lower poverty levels and eight such states have higher per capita income as well as literacy rates than Odisha,” Patnaik said making a case for SCS for the State.
“It is, therefore, obvious that Odisha faces several serious development challenges and continues to be very backward. Its resource needs are very huge and cannot be met by its own efforts. Declaring Odisha as a Special Category State would help in availing adequate resources from the Centre to expedite and accelerate development process and addressing the special needs of the State,” the CM emphasised.
Referring to the 57th meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) held on December 27, 2012, Patnaik said he had urged the Union government to revisit and redefine the criteria for according SCS to less developed states like Odisha.
“I request your personal intervention to take expeditious steps for declaring Odisha as a Special Category Status,” Naveen appealed the PM.
The Odisha Assembly had passed a unanimous resolution on April 4, 2013 urging the Central Government to declare Odisha as a Special Category State.