File photograph of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. (Photo: PTI)

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Seeks Financial Autonomy For Odisha

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday demanded financial autonomy for Odisha after which, he said, the state would not need special category status or central grants.

Financial autonomy would help the state develop and prosper with its own funds. Legendary Odisha leader Biju Patnaik had made a plea for fiscal autonomy for the state in the early 90s, the chief minister said.

"Give us financial autonomy, we will no more need special category status or central grant for the state. We will be able to develop and prosper with our own funds," Naveen Patnaik said while addressing the 21st foundation day of the Biju Janata Dal. He, however, did not elaborate on the issue.

Odisha had demanded about Rs 4.59 lakh crore from the 14th Finance Commission. The commission has granted Rs 1.84 lakh crore towards the share in central taxes and duties for 2015-20.

The chief minister also accused the Centre of neglecting the state "in all spheres".

Recalling legendary Biju Patnaik's plea for fiscal autonomy for the state, the BJD president and the son of the legendry leader added Biju Babu had rightly said that he would transform Odisha into the most advanced state in south Asia with financial autonomy.

He hit out at the Centre for "extracting huge benefits from Odisha but giving nothing in return for the state's development".

Naveen Patnaik's scathing attack on the Centre comes two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a rally in Khurda, took a dig at the BJD government, alleging corruption and inaction.

Throwing a barrage of questions at the BJP-led NDA government, Naveen Patnaik alleged that both the Congress and the BJP have all long been neglecting Odisha because of which the state and its people have been suffering.

Stating that national political parties appear before the people only at the time of election, he said they disappear after making false promises as they have little concern for Odisha.

Mocking the Centre for its performance in the telecommunication sector, the chief minister said though BSNL boasts about its vast presence, people in both rural and urban Odisha have to "climb trees and high-rise structures to catch the network".

Referring to Railways, Patnaik said though the state has provided free land and borne half the cost of major rail projects, the Khurda-Balangir rail line still remains incomplete.

Stating that the condition of national highways was pathetic, he said the coastal highway project remains confined to announcements in the last four-and-a-half years.

Slamming the Centre over the issue of coal royalty, Naveen Patnaik said there has been no revision in coal royalty. Mahandi Coalfields Ltd. is making a profit of Rs 20,000 crore but Odisha is getting "pollution," he said. Though it was highly publicised that Odisha would gain over Rs 70,000 crore from coal mine auction, the entire campaign turned out to be hollow as the state got only Rs 370 crore from the process.

Also read: Odisha Pollution Board Asks Vedanta To Close Five Power Units

Noting that the people, particularly farmers, had to suffer a lot due to demonetisation and lack of banking facilities in rural areas, Naveen Patnaik said farmers are unable to get compensation under crop insurance in time, while private insurance companies are harassing them.

Accusing the BJP-led government of failing to keep the promises in 2014 election manifesto, the BJD leader said the promise to grant “special category status” to Odisha, hike minimum support price for paddy by one-and-a-half time of input cost and 33 percent reservation for women remained "only in words".

The Centre halted the grant for development of tribal areas, scheduled caste people, he said, adding that the stipends for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students were not given in the last two years. Terming the much trumpeted 'Ujjwala Yojana' as a failure, the BJD president said poor families were unable to go for refilling due to high cost of LPG cylinders.

"These are the so-called success story of central government ... Odisha seeks an explanation from them on these issues," he said.

Also read: BJP Will Find it Tough to Dislodge Naveen Patnaik’s BJD in Odisha