Naveen Patnaik raises Special category issue in NITI Aayog meet

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NEW DELHI: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik raised the Special Category Status issue before the Niti Aayog on Saturday, four days after pushing for the ‘Special Focus State’ status for the state in view of its vulnerability to natural calamities.

Attending the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of the NITI Aayog chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Patnaik demanded that natural calamity be included as a criterion for according Special Category Status to Odisha.

“As an interim measure, states hit by major natural calamities may be declared as Special Focus States and granted benefits of Special Category Status for a specific period,” the chief minister said.

Patnaik had raised the same demand during a meeting with Modi on June 11.

Patnaik cited the instance of cyclone Fani that battered 14 districts, killed 64 people and caused a total loss of Rs 9,336.26 crore after making landfall at a wind speed of about 200 kmph near Puri on May 3.

Noting that India must move towards empowering women in all spheres, the chief minister said as frequent elections affect development climate, it is better to have simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

He said the primary sector especially agriculture has to be always taken care of and judicious utilisation of water resources holds the key.

“Second Green Revolution should happen in our dryland areas also,” Patnaik said adding that environment and economic development should go hand in hand.

He also demanded that the PM-KISAN scheme include landless agriculture households and sharecroppers.

“All irrigation projects which are lying incomplete as on April one, 2019 should be included under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY),” he said.

Patnaik said the Union Government should allocate a much higher quantum of resources for watershed, command area development and drinking water.

There should be a priority component under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY-III) to connect habitations with a population of 100 and below, he said.

The projects need to be expedited to extend rail connectivity to tribal-dominated Kandhamal, Nabarangpur and Malkangiri districts of Odisha, Patnaik said.

In regard to financial inclusion, he said banking facilities should be extended to all unbanked Gram Panchayats across the state and Bharatnet Project should also be implemented at a faster pace.

Patnaik demanded that the royalty on coal be raised from 14 per cent to 20 per cent of sale value.

Source: Press Trust of India