New Delhi: Orissa Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Patnaik participated in the 56th meeting of the National Development Council today, at New Delhi. The meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister. Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of other States attended the meeting.
In his address, Chief Minister informed the meeting about the massive loss of life and damage to public infrastructure caused by the unprecedented floods of September, 2011. He urged that the Central Government should urgently approve assistance to the State amounting to Rs.3265 crore as detailed out in the two Memoranda submitted to the Central Government for carrying out repair and restoration works. He also requested for immediate release of Rs.1000 crore as advance from NDRF to enable the State to sustain the on-going rehabilitation efforts. Moreover, the 12th Plan should lay focus on schemes for long term solutions to prevent calamities like floods and drought, he added.
Chief Minister drew the attention of the Council to the ‘Supernormal Profits’ being enjoyed by the mining companies operating in the State. He informed that the profits of mining operators exceed even the approved Annual Plan size of Orissa. Such an unwarranted state is the outcome of flawed Central policies which have perpetuated low royalty rates and artificially low prices determined by Indian Bureau of Mines.
In the interests of mineral bearing States, he strongly advocated the need for imposing Mineral Resources Rent Tax on mining companies, to be charged at 50% of the surplus rent. This would help mineral rich States like Orissa to raise much needed resources for development, he added. He further suggested that export of ore should be banned and technologies be developed to derive benefits of value addition.
Chief Minister expressed his serious concern at the growing menace of Left Wing Extremism and suggested that the 12th Plan should sharply focus on a multipronged strategy to address the situation. He demanded that the special initiative of Integrated Action Plan (IAP) should continue with increased funding and cover more Naxal affected tribal/ backward districts of the State during the 12th Plan. He further stated that since containing naxal menace is a joint responsibility, charges towards deployment of Central Forces should not be levied on States like Orissa. The process for conducting Socio Economic and Caste Census-2011 has been initiated by the Government of Orissa. Chief Minister advised that the survey outcome should be accepted without any pre-determined ceiling so that no genuine and deserving poor family is left out.
Chief Minister strongly pressed for the legitimate claim of Orissa to be treated as a ‘Special Category State’, as Orissa satisfies all the criteria for the status except for an international boundary, which should not be a limiting factor, he stated. He conveyed in clear terms that coal mining and thermal power plants impose significant economic, environmental and social costs on Orissa. He reiterated his proposal to introduce suitable amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003 and National Thermal Power Policy for ensuring fair and equitable sharing of costs and benefits. He further demanded that host States like Orissa should be entitled to 25% free thermal power as in the case of hydro-power. Moreover, Re-structured Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (R-APDRP) should be extended to cover Orissa without any delay, he stated.
Chief Minister also brought out that the proposed Indian Ports Bill, 2011 appears to constrain the powers of the States to develop their own ports and maritime infrastructure. The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011 has also been objected to by most States. He advised that such tendencies, which erode autonomy of the States and weaken the federal structure, should be avoided.
Chief Minister stated that Government of Orissa plans to expand irrigation by covering additional 2 lakh hectares through mega lift projects on major rivers and providing borewells in hard rock areas for drought proofing in northern, western and southern parts of the State. He urged that 12th Plan should provide for adequate funds for these schemes and for watershed development over one million hectares in the rain-deficit areas in the State to boost agriculture production and productivity. The 12th Plan should also support Government of Orissa for providing hostel facilities to 5 lakh girl children belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Schedule Castes over a period of 5 years beginning 2007-08.
On the issue of historically disadvantaged regions like Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi (KBK), Chief Minister strongly urged the Government of India to extend the Special Plan for the KBK region for at least 10 years beyond the year 2011-12 with increased funding and also approve an 8 year Perspective Plan for this region for Rs.4550 crore, developed in consultation with the Planning Commission.
Addressing the challenge of unemployment through skill upgradation of 10 lakh youth is one of the programmes taken up by the State Government, Chief Minister informed. He requested Government of India to liberally support this programme through adequate resource flows and policy backups and by establishing training institutions and technical & management institutes like IITs, IIITs, IIMs, etc in larger numbers in backward States like Orissa.
Regarding urban issues, Chief Minister advised that the 12th Plan should carry a special focus on Central Urban Development Programme to tackle inadequacies of urban infrastructure and address urban poverty effectively. Chief Minister was emphatic that higher investments in social sectors, particularly health, education, poverty eradication and other social safety nets in less developed States like Orissa should receive priority in the 12th Plan.
In conclusion, Chief Minister stated that Government of India should engage more constructively with the State Governments, liberally support their efforts to fulfil the rising aspirations of the local people and adopt appropriate programmes during the 12th Plan to reduce regional inequalities.