BHUBANESWAR: Speaking on behalf of the entire eastern region of the country, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday demanded a special economic package for the region, stating that it lags in many sectors despite being endowed with natural and mineral resources.
Addressing the 24th Eastern Zonal Council (EZC) meeting, presided over by Union Home Minister Amit Shah here, the Chief Minister said the entire eastern region is underdeveloped in terms of teledensity, railway network and banking density compared to other zones, and therefore needs a special financial package for infrastructure development. “If a nationwide analysis is done, East Zone will be at the bottom in all these subjects which are in the Union List. There is a need to double the allotments made to this region so that they catch up to national benchmarks” he said.
Stating that one of the prime objectives of the Zonal Council is national integration and create healthy inter-state and centre-state relations, the Chief Minister said, “Integration has to be financial, infrastructural, technological, so it leads to and strengthens emotional integration.” Emphasising that the East Zone contributes maximum to the mineral wealth of the country and ensures security for manufacturing and energy sectors, he said the fruits of this wealth should boost the economic growth of the region.
Pointing out that royalty on coal has not been revised since 2012, the Chief Minister said there is an urgent need to review this and also share clean energy cess with the state governments. "Our region has some of the largest scheduled areas of the country. I reiterate my demand for inclusion of Ho, Bhumij and Mundari languages in the Eighth Schedule of Constitution," he said.
On Odisha specific issues, the Chief Minister said he is thankful to the Centre for supporting the state during cyclone Fani last year. “Taking the frequency of natural disasters faced by Odisha into consideration, vulnerability to natural calamity should be taken as a criterion to declare the state a Special Focus State,” he said.
Besides, he also referred to the delay in releasing grants to urban local bodies and non-release of subsidy for paddy procurement causing problems to farmers. He said the state provides 50 per cent of the estimated cost and free land for important railway projects but the progress has been "very slow".
Apart from Naveen, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar also attended the meeting. Jharkhand Finance Minister Rameshwar Oraon is deputising for Chief Minister Hemant Soren.
Earlier, Shah was given a rousing reception from thousands of BJP workers at the airport here after arriving on his two day Odisha visit. Union Ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Chandra Sarangi, party national Vice-President Baijayant Panda and other senior leaders were present. Later during the day Shah is scheduled to address a pro-CAA rally here.