BHUBANESWAR: Cornering Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a demand that could not be entertained has paid off for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Days after Patnaik handed over a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking special category state status for Odisha and imposition of mineral resources rent tax (MRRT), the UPA government rejected both demands and bolstered the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)’s pet campaign of Central negligence of the state.
With panchayat polls only a month away, it was a double delight of sorts for the regional party. Patnaik’s reaction to the rejection of MRRT by the Centre was sharp. “The Union Minister of State for Mines is articulating the version of the mining lobby,” Patnaik said in a statement after Union minister Dinsha J Patel in a letter to the state government said that issue needs further study.
During his visit to the Congress Bhavan, the state party headquarters on January 3 when he visited the state to inaugurate the Indian Science Congress, the prime minister dismissed the BJD’s pet theme of Central neglect. The UPA government has all along been supportive and sympathetic towards Orissa, the prime minister said. Naveen had written two letters to the prime minister on the MMRT issue. The state cabinet has also sought legislation to levy tax on mine owners making super-profits. Special category status is an issue which has being raised for the last 30 years. The BJD now has a stick to beat the Congress with in the upcoming panchayat polls.
Corruption in the Naveen Patnaik government remains a major issue for the Congress, however. A series of scams have come to the forefront in Odisha, raising grave doubts on integrity of governance and questionable conduct of top politicians and bureaucrats, the memorandum submitted by Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) to the prime minister during his visit said. The prime minister responded positively to the Congress allegations on corruption. There will be no compromise on corruption, he said and added that all such issues will be investigated and the guilty will be taken to task.
The memorandum alleged that the state government has allowed illegal mining operations in Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Jajpur districts in violation of mining, forest and environment laws over the last decade. Taking advantage of the high domestic and international demand, 545 million tonnes of iron ore has been raised in Odisha, much of it illegally, it said.