New Delhi: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik participated in the Eleventh Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Inter-State Council in New Delhi today. The meeting was chaired by the Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh. Union Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley and Chief Ministers of Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura also participated in the meeting.
Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath Singh, in his welcome address outlined the history of Centre State Relations in India and suggested that the recommendations made by the Punchhi Commission, contained in two volumes, Volume-II and Volume-III, may be taken up para-wise for consideration by the Standing Committee of the Inter State Council. All the recommendations relating to Constitutional Governance and Management of Centre State Relations, incorporated in Volume-II of the Punchhi Commission’s Report, were discussed para-wise by the Standing Committee.
Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley stated that many recommendations contained in Volume-III dealing with Centre State Financial Relations and Planning have undergone substantial changes since 2010 in view of the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission and passing of the GST Bill.
He mentioned that many of these recommendations may have become obsolete and desired that the Standing Committee may only broadly discuss Centre State Financial Relations at this moment. He desired that the Inter State Council Secretariat may identify specific recommendations para-wise contained in Volume-III, which still hold relevance in the changed financial outlook, for consideration of the Standing Committee during the next meeting alongwith Volumes-IV & V of the Report.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik informed that Odisha has already furnished a consolidated response on the recommendations of the Punchhi Commission and has agreed to one hundred thirty six (136) recommendations, disagreed with fifty five (55) and conveyed conditional acceptance to forty eight (48) recommendations. He stated that Odisha fully supports the recommendations of the Commission aimed at strengthening the autonomy of the States including defining the role of Governor and underlined that it should be our common endeavour to retain the constitutional integrity of our federal structure which provides for clear division of powers between the Union and the States.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik conveyed specific views of the State Government on each recommendation contained in Volume-II and on various issues relating to Financial Relations between Centre and States, provided in Volume-III of the Report. He asserted that Odisha has a high percentage of population below poverty line and belonging to ST & SC and deserves the same sharing pattern at par with the North Eastern and Himalayan States. He informed the Standing Coimmittee that this demand of the State is in line with the Punchhi Commission recommendation for higher Central transfers to backward States for improving their physical and human infrastructure.
Chief Minister also mentioned that the decision taken in the GST Council meeting to use the proceeds of the Clean Environment Cess for GST Compensation Fund, meant for all States, is clearly disadvantageous to coal bearing States like Odisha which have to bear the huge burden of environmental degeneration and the cost of rehabilitation. He urged upon the Union Government to earmark 60 per cent of the Clean Environment Cess for the coal bearing States.
Chief Minister expressed his concern at the demand of the Union Government thrust on the Left Wing Extremism affected States for reimbursement of the cost of deployment of CAPF. He stated that the threat of Left Wing Extremism is a national challenge and is one of the biggest internal security threats faced by the Nation and the demand of the Union Government made to the States for reimbursing the cost on account of CAPF deployment is totally unjustified. He urged upon the Union Government to ensure equitable distribution of funds, logistic support and deployment of Central Forces and to bear the expenditure on their deployment.
Chief Minister, Odisha highlighted that low telecom connectivity including lower bandwidth, low financial inclusion and a lower bank credit, continue to remain major concerns of Odisha. He informed that 28 per cent of the villages in the State do not have any mobile coverage; 70 per cent of Gram Panchayats in Odisha do not have any bank branch; and the Credit-GSDP ratio at 24.75 per cent is abysmally low, and impressed upon the Union Government to address these critical deficiencies urgently, to realise the goals of Digital India and balanced economic and social development.
Chief Minister informed the Standing Committee that Government of Odisha has assured to provide land and part finance many Railwayprojects for connecting hinterland Maoist affected areas and urged upon the Government of India to support these projects with adequate funding including the proposed Malkangiri-Jeypore and Jeypore-Nawarangpur Rail projects. He also desired that the Union Government should provide adequate funds in the Union Budget for ordinary repair and periodical renewal of National Highways passing through Odisha, many of which are in a state of disrepair.
Chief Minister reiterated his serious concerns on the implementation of inter-state water projects including the Polavaram project and the ongoing construction activities in the upper catchment areas of river Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh State. He stated that the Union Government has not adopted principles of fairplay in declaring Polavaram as a National Project and in assigning the task of taking decisions on contentious issues between the two States to a functionary of Polavaram project.
He urged upon the Union Government to discontinue the Polavaram project and constitute a Tribunal at the earliest to resolve the Mahanadi water dispute, and in the interim, stop all ongoing construction activities in Mahanadi basin in Chhattisgarh for protecting the livelihood of the people of Odisha.
Concluding his observations, Chief Minister hoped that the specific concerns of Odisha and common issues concerning all States as raised by him will receive due consideration of the august Committee and the Union Government, in the true spirit of cooperative federalism.