Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi, Oct 22:
On the fourth day of his week-long visit to New Delhi, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today met Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and urged him to provide special assistance to the state reeling under drought situation due to deficit rainfall this monsoon.
Patnaik urged Jaitley to send a Central team to Odisha to assess the drought situation in the state. Though he did not demand any amount as financial assistance, he urged the minister to consider announcing a package based on the ground assessment report submitted by the team.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reiterated his demand for Special Central Assistance to Odisha.
“Odisha deserves a greater share in Central Assistance as compared to other Eastern States in terms of its backwardness and low levels of almost all socio-economic indicators. Odisha has continuously suffered since independence on account of inadequate flow of central resources. The state’s problems are compounded by recurring floods/ cyclones/ drought which play havoc with the state’s economy,” he said.
During this year, Kharif crops have been severely impacted in large parts of Odisha due to inadequate rainfall in July/ August and about 5.32 lakh hectares of cropped area has suffered damage to the extent of 33% or more.
The state has already announced a package of drought assistance for farmers estimated to cost over Rs.1000 crore, towards drought mitigation and protection of interest of farmers, he added.
“I urge Centre to recognize the severe challenges faced by the State and to provide Special Central Assistance of at least Rs.3500 crore to Odisha at the earliest and provide interest incentive at a rate of 3% for converted medium term loans to enable the affected farmers to avail the prompt repayment incentive at par with short term crop loans,” Patnaik said.
Expressing concern that even till date about 2/3rd of the state is not covered by any Bank branch, he asserted that for ensuring financial inclusion, it is necessary to have at least one Bank branch in every Gram Panchayat of the state. He requested the Union Finance Minister to issue directions to the Banks to provide required logistics and manpower support for opening Brick and Mortar Branches in all unbanked Gram Panchayats as per the schedule finalized by the State Level Bankers Committee. He brought to the attention of the Union Finance Minister that discontinuance of Central Assistance for Key Area Development Programmes including Special Plan for KBK, Backward Region Grant Fund and Integrated Action Plan for Left Wing Extremism affected Districts are severely impacting the most vulnerable groups of the backward regions of Odisha. He urged upon the Union Finance Minister to either restore the provisions for these critical schemes or provide a special package to the state for continuance of these vital programmes.
Chief Minister informed that the ongoing major and medium irrigation projects sanctioned in the state are suffering on account of inadequate release of funds in the past and inadequate provision made for 2015-16. He stated that the requirement of the state to meet the balance cost of ongoing irrigation projects works out to about Rs.5200 crore. And in addition, there is a huge backlog of previous years. He impressed upon the Union Finance Minister to review the prevailing situation and enhance the outlay under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) for Odisha for ensuring that the ongoing major and medium irrigation and flood control projects are completed without further delay.
Chief Minister also asked for enhanced allocation under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). He mentioned that the State has been allocated merely Rs.912 crore in 2015-16 under PMGSY against the requirement of Rs.5000 crore for the balance projects already sanctioned in Odisha. The state has already made a provision in the Budget Estimates for 2015- 16 anticipating at least Rs.1800 crore under the scheme, he stated. He urged upon the Union Finance Minister to enhance allocation under PMGSY for Odisha to at least Rs.1800 crore during the current year.
Union Finance Minister assured that the demands of the state would be considered favourably and the interest of the state shall be protected while finalizing the devolution of Special Central Assistance of Rs.20, 000 crore provisioned in the current Budget. He also assured to look into the issues of restoring Central Assistance for Key Development Programmes and providing additional funds under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme.
On the other hand, the increasing number of farmer suicides in the state continues to be a concern for the state as unnatural death of the farmers are being reported every day. The farmers are ending their lives due to loan burden and crop loss.
Opposition Congress yesterday lashed out at the state government for failing to control impact of the drought-like situation in the state that has forced farmers to commit suicide. Besides, it went on to declare that it will organise a ‘Save farmers’ agitation on November 6 across the state against the anti-farmer policies of the government.
Pradesh Congress Committee president Prasad Harichandan said the state government is not bothered about the plight of farmers, 27 of whom committed suicide in the last three weeks due to crop loss.
Earlier on Oct 14, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced drought assistance to the farmers facing crop loss of 33 percent and above.
As many as 123 blocks in 16 districts have been drought-hit in the state. Balasore, Boudh, Jajpur, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Khurda, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Nayagarh, Puri, Subarnapur, Bolangir, Nuapada, Jharsuguda and Bargarh have been declared as drought-affected districts due to scanty rainfall.
The 123 blocks in the 16 districts facing drought-like situation have suffered crop loss of more than 33 percent and will be covered under the Rs.1,000 crore special package announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Revenue & Disaster Management Minister Bijoyshree Routray had said.