Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 2 :
The government of Odisha has issued a comprehensive official press release on the meeting of state chief minister Naveen Patnaik and 24 BJD MPs with prime minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi earlier today. It is not clear if each of the subjects mentioned in the release were actually discussed with the Prime Minister or submitted to him in the form of a memorandum.
“Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik alongwith the newly elected Members of Lok Sabha and Members of Rajya Sabha, belonging to Biju Janata Dal (BJD), met the Hon’ble Prime Minister in New Delhi today.
“Hon’ble Chief Minister apprised the Prime Minister that Odisha is committed to achieving a high and inclusive economic and social development and during the last decade, the State attained an average real growth rate of over 9% coupled with a high agricultural growth rate, far higher than the national average.
He added that the State has also accomplished the highest rate of decline in poverty and infant mortality in the country during the last decade. Despite such impressive gains, Odisha continues to have a high incidence of poverty and adverse Human Development Indices, he stated.
“Severe floods, cyclones and drought which recur every year cause havoc in the State perpetuating poverty and underdevelopment. He impressed upon the Prime Minister to accord Special Category Status to Odisha recognising its backwardness provide adequate resources for enabling the State to achieve an equitable and inclusive socio-economic growth.
“Hon’ble Chief Minister highlighted that the rich minerals of Odisha are being exploited by a few mining entities who enjoy super normal profits and that the State is not being adequately compensated for the negative externalities caused by mining. He stated that the State is losing over Rs.5 crore everyday because of non-revision of royalty rates on minerals, which were due for revision in August, 2012.
He urged upon the Prime Minister to revise the royalty rates from 10% to 15% and introduce Mineral Resource Rent Tax for ensuring that gains from mineral exploitation accrue to local population in backward mineral bearing areas.
The Chief Minister informed the Prime Minister that the Railway route length in Odisha is only about 15 km per 1000 sq km, far lower than the national average of 19 km and significantly lower than the neighbouring States. He stated that seven districts of Odisha have no railway network at all till date despite the fact that Odisha contributes over Rs 14,000 crore annually or about 1/10th of the total revenues earned by the Indian Railways.
He impressed upon the Prime Minister to allocate Rs 3160 crore in the Railway Budget for 2014-15 to actualise Railway corridor development and Port connectivity in the State and implement other announced projects including a Wagon Factory in Ganjam district and a Wagon Maintenance Workshop in Kalahandi.
The Chief Minister mentioned that the existing approved BPL list of Odisha dates back to 1997 which excludes a large number of eligible BPL persons and urged upon the Prime Minister to allow additional 5 lakh BPL beneficiaries under the Indira Gandhi National Pension Scheme to cover left out BPL persons.
“Hon’ble Chief Minister urged upon the Hon’ble Prime Minister to approve the proposal of Odisha to include Sambalpuri/Kosali and Ho languages in the 8th Schedule to the Constitution of India, presently under consideration of the Ministry of Home Affairs, to fulfil the long cherished linguistic aspirations of the people of Western and Northern Odisha.
He further informed that Nabakalebar, a ritual followed for centuries at Jagannath Temple, when the Deities leave their old forms and assume new ones, is scheduled in 2015 and over five million pilgrims/tourists are expected to congregate in Puri town necessitating huge requirement of infrastructure.
He requested the Prime Minister that Special Central Assistance of Rs 1397 crore, as sought by the State Government from the Planning Commission, may be approved at the earliest for this significant religious and cultural event of the Eastern India.
“Hon’ble Prime Minister was also apprised that the State has not received the required Additional Central Assistance of Rs.3592 crore under Centrally Sponsored Schemes and Special Central Assistance of Rs.4123 crore needed for restoration of damaged infrastructure, risk mitigation and proofing and restoration of livelihoods. He urged upon the Prime Minister for early sanction of the said assistance by the Planning Commission.
“Hon’ble Chief Minister drew the attention of the Hon’ble Prime Minister to the proposed Polavaram Project in Seemandhra. He stated that many States including Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Telengana are seriously concerned about the adverse consequences of the proposed project including submergence and flooding. The project will affect the vulnerable people living in the backward district of Malkangiri. He urged upon the Prime Minister to appreciate the genuine concerns of Odisha and other affected States and not to go ahead with the proposed project.
“Chief Minister also raised the issue of non-operation of international flights from & to Biju Patnaik International Airport till date. He stated that Bhubaneswar Airport was declared as an international airport in October 2013 to boost international tourism and economic development of the region. He urged upon the Prime Minister that Ministry of Civil Aviation should revisit their Bilateral Agreements with the airline operators and approve international operations from & to Bhubaneswar linking it to Middle East and South East Asian countries, to start with.
“Hon’ble Prime Minister appreciated the genuine concerns of the State as brought out by Hon’ble Chief Minister, Odisha and assured his full support. He added that the important issues as raised by Hon’ble Chief Minister would receive priority attention and that adequate assistance will be provided to Odisha to sustain its inclusive socio-economic development programmes. “