Odisha CM raises Polavaram, Mahanadi issues with the Centre

Bhubaneswar, July 16 (IANS) Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday raised several issues at the Inter-State Council meeting in New Delhi, including the Polavaram project and construction of upper-catchment projects on Mahanadi river basin.

The Chief Minister said the Odisha government has opposed any move with regard to upper-catchment projects in Mahanadi Basin without consulting the state.

He requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who presided the meeting, not to allow such upper-catchment projects, and help in safeguarding the interests of millions of farmers of Odisha.

The Chhattisgarh government is setting up these projects on the Mahanadi basin.

Raising the issue of Polavaram project, Patnaik said the Odisha government has been consistently demanding discontinuance of the project for the last few years.

“Unfortunately, the Union government has not addressed the genuine concerns of Odisha and have declared Polavaram project as a ‘National Project’ assigning the task of taking decision on contentious issues between the two states to a functionary of Polavaram project,” he added.

Patnaik said this is a clear case of conflict of interests and against principles of fair play.

He said the Council should take note of such critical issues and evolve an institutional mechanism to settle such disputes in a time-bound and effective manner.

The Chief Minister said his government has duly considered the recommendations of Punchhi Commission on Centre-State relations. He, however, said that Odisha has reservations on some of the recommendations that impinge on the state’s autonomy.

These include deployment of central forces in exceptional circumstances of communal violence without the special request of the state government and setting up of Inter-State Trade and Commerce Commission since the proposed constitution of Goods and Services Tax Council Bill 2014 is still pending, he added.

Informing that the government has already decided to use Aadhaar as an identifier for providing subsidies, Patnaik informed the Council that extremely low penetration of banks and poor internet connectivity remain major challenges in the state.

“While we have assured complete support for opening of bank branches in uncovered gram panchayats, including free infrastructure, the response from the banks has been disappointing. As on date, we have only about 2,500 gram panchayats out of 6,234 panchayats in the state having some banking facility,” said the Chief Minister.

The roll out of Bharatnet project aimed at providing broadband connectivity up to gram panchayat level in the state has so far progressed at a snail’s pace. It requires special focus from the Union government, Patnaik added.

He said the state government has strong reservations about the introduction of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for disbursal of pensions.

“We oppose the mandatory introduction of DBT for disbursal of pensions. DBT as a system is fine and works well in certain areas like subsidy and scholarship distribution and we have used it in these fields. But bringing in DBT in pensions will negate the very purpose of our intervention,” the Chief Minister said.

Informing that the state government has decided to set up model schools in each block, he urged the Centre to continue the scheme of setting up model schools in educationally backward blocks’.

As Left Wing Extremism poses the biggest threat to the internal security of Odisha, he requested the Centre to ensure balanced and equitable deployment of central forces among the states in order to prevent cross-border spillage of the Maoists.

He also requested the Centre to restore the earlier funding pattern under Modernization of Police Forces.

He urged the central government to raise the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to Rs 2,500 per quintal for Kharif marketing season 2016-17.

He said Odisha could not gain on account of increase in the share of tax devolution from 32 per cent to 42 per cent of the divisible pool on account of substantial reduction in plan funds transfer and discontinuance of central assistance for key area development programmes.

The Chief Minister also asked to raise the rate of royalty on coal and 60 per cent share from the Clean Environment Cess.



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