Chief Minister Navin Pattanaik Attends 12th Meeting of Inter-State Council
New Delhi,16.07.2016 (By Mano Mani Singh)-Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha, Shri Naveen Patnaik participated in the Eleventh meeting of the Inter-State Council at New Delhi today. The meeting was chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of other States attended the meeting.Hon’ble Chief Minister expressed his concern that the Inter-State Council has been convened by the Union Government after a long gap of ten years and suggested that the Council should meet regularly at shorter intervals to deliberate on critical issues concerning Centre-States Relations. Chief Minister stated that the recommendations of Punchhi Commission on Centre-State Relations have been duly considered by Odisha and the views of the State were furnished to the Central Government last year in April, 2015. He added that Odisha has accepted majority of the recommendations aimed at strengthening the federal structure, barring a few which impinge upon State’s autonomy. Hon’ble Chief Minister mentioned that Odisha has already decided to use Aadhaar as an identifier for providing subsidies – benefits and public services and has already set up a State Resident Data Hub for storing of Aadhaar information relating to residents of Odisha. He informed the Council that extremely low penetration of Banks and poor internet connectivity are major challenges faced by the Sate in taking the initiative forward. He underlined the need to improve Bank coverage in the uncovered Gram Panchayats of Odisha in a time bound manner and to expedite the rollout of Bharatnet project to provide broadband connectivity upto Gram Panchayat level. Hon’ble Chief Minister expressed his reservations at the introduction of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for disbursal of pensions. He highlighted that Odisha has 44 lakh pensioners with many residing in the remotest parts of the State and State’s pension distribution system entailing a fixed day approach for disbursal at the Gram Panchayat headquarters has been appreciated widely as one of the finest disbursal systems in the country. He added that the doorstep banking including the banking correspondent model or the Post Office have been tried out without much success and these bring in the same problems which the State is trying to eliminate, i.e. the rent seeking behaviour and delays. He desired that the present Social Security scheme of Odisha which stresses on the role of Panchayats therefore should be continued as such. The Chief Minister informed the Council that Odisha has launched Ujwal and Utkarsh schemes for elementary and secondary school students respectively for improving the quality of education and learning outcomes in the State. Further, Odisha plans to set up CBSE affiliated model schools in all Blocks of the State and has already made 100 model schools functional from the current year. He underlined that the delinking of the Scheme of Model Schools for Educationally Backward Blocks by the Union Government has further strained the State’s resources by putting an additional burden of over Rs.160 crore towards capital cost and urged upon the Union Government to continue with this initiative. Hon’ble Chief Minister mentioned that Left Wing Extremism poses the biggest threat to the Internal Security of Odisha and the State conducts anti-Naxalite operations at regular intervals in the Inter-State border areas to contain the menace. He urged upon the Union Government to ensure balanced and equitable deployment of Central Forces among the States in order to prevent cross-border spillage of the Maoists. He also impressed upon the Union Government to restore the earlier funding pattern under Modernization of Police Force. The Chief Minister reiterated his serious concern at the Union Government declaring Polavaram project as a National Project despite its serious consequences on the livelihood of a large number of tribal families in Odisha and repeated requests of the State to the contrary. He highlighted that this is a clear case of conflict of interest and against the principles of fair play and desired that the Council should take note of such critical issues having inter-state ramifications and evolve an institutional mechanism to settle such disputes in a time bound and effective manner. Hon’ble Chief Minister informed that Mahanadi is the lifeline of Odisha and the lives and livelihood of farmers of fifteen districts and 65% of population in Odisha are directly or indirectly impacted by the river. He impressed upon the Prime Minister not to allow any upper-catchment projects in Mahanadi Basin to safeguard the interests of millions of farmers in Odisha. Further, stating that Paddy remains the dominant crop in the State, he underlined the need to raise the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Paddy to Rs.2500 per quintal as against the 2016 revised MSP of Rs.1470 per quintal for Common Paddy to safeguard the interests of Paddy cultivators. This, he stated, is important to mitigate the sufferings of farmers, incentivise paddy cultivation in the State and for empowering farmers financially. Hon’ble Chief Minister stated that discontinuance of Central Assistance for key Area Development Programmes like Special Plan for KBK, Backward Region Grant Fund and Integrated Action Plan are severely impacting the most vulnerable population and the backward regions of Odisha and urged upon the Prime Minister to restore Central Assistance for these programmes. Further, highlighting that Odisha continues to suffer from historical neglect in both road and rail communication, the Chief Minister stated that the Railways should now expedite project implementation of long-pending projects as Odisha has proactively come forward to participate financially in these projects. Hon’ble Chief Minister informed the Council that Odisha, despite being a mineral rich State, continues to suffer from negative externalities caused by coal mines, coal based power plants and non-revision of royalty on coal even after more than four years. He mentioned that the ‘Clean Environment Cess’ of Rs.400 per tonne levied by the Union Government, which is four times of the royalty earned by the State, is not being shared with the coal bearing States. He mentioned that people of coal bearing States who are affected by pollution, transport problems, human displacement and other problems related to coal mining should be benefited by the Cess. He reiterated his request made on earlier occasions that the Union Government should share at least 60 percent of the collected Cess with the coal bearing States. Concluding his address, the Chief Minister mentioned that Odisha as a federal unit stands committed to accelerate the pace of socio economic inclusive development and contribute to Nation building and looks forward to the Union Government to support the State’s endeavours.