Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik responds to questions from The Indian Express ahead of his Swabhiman Samavesh rally on Wednesday to demand special category status for the state
You have claimed that Orissa has posted an impressive growth rate in recent years,so why the demand for special category status?
While we have recorded an impressive growth rate,we are behind the national averages in some of the socio economic indicators. Orissa also meets all the criteria for getting the special category status except the international boundary. We have recorded the sharpest drop in poverty. The grant of special category status would further accelerate these efforts. We should not forget that Orissa has a large tribal population (23 per cent). Our railway network is well below the national average and despite the fact that we generate almost Rs 14,000 crore
in revenue for the Railways each year,we hardly get anything for its development in our state. Special Category Status will provide us central funds with 90 per cent grant,which will reduce our interest burden. It will also give tax breaks to units in the state.
How enthused were you by the words of the Finance Minister when he said the Centre is open to take a relook at the criteria for defining a special category state?
The Finance Minister in his Budget speech was making the same point that my government has been repeatedly demanding for the last 13 years. However,the attitude of the Centre can be judged from the fact that despite the Finance Ministers assurance in the budget speech on February 28 that the Centre would evolve new criteria based on the distance of the state from the national average for per capita income,literacy,other human development indicators,for determining backwardness of the state,we received a reply from the Planning Commission on May 7 that Orissa does not qualify for Special Category Status. In fact,in the letter from the Planning Commission,there is no mention about the Centre having a relook at the existing criteria. This itself shows how seriously it is taking our rightful demands.
So,you are accusing the Centre of doing lip service?
The Congress-led UPA government believes in political blackmailing. They discriminate against states ruled by parties who are not a part of their alliance. The states in which regional parties are in power like Orissa are the worst sufferers. We strongly denounce the politicisation of the central aid. This struggle of ours from palli (village) to dilli (Delhi) should make the Central government take note of the sentiments of the 4 crore people of Orissa.
Orissa has now started a separate agriculture budget. Why?
In presenting an agriculture budget,the BJD has demonstrated its political commitment to
the farmers of the state. With crop loans at 2 per cent interest and an exclusive health insurance scheme for the farmers,I am sure that this agriculture budget will go a long way in improving the lives of our farmers.
What steps are you taking to turn Orissa into an attractive investment destination? Has the POSCO issue adversely impacted the states image in this respect?
We have some of the largest reserves of coal,bauxite,iron ore,manganese and chromite besides a stable power situation and adequate water in the state. These factors coupled with stable and transparent governance have made Orissa a natural choice for investments in the primary sector. Our focus has been on value addition within the state so that we can earn revenue for our developmental programmes and also create more jobs within the state. We also have one of the best relief and rehabilitation policies in the country. As far as POSCO project is concerned,there were some legal issues and they are being sorted out. The project is on track and I am hopeful that things will
Do you think Gujarat can serve as a model or a reference point for Orissa?
Every state can have its own model of development. The cornerstone of a successful state is good and transparent governance and that is what our government seeks to provide. I may also add that states should learn from other states while implementing
programmes. Orissa adopts the best practices followed by other states for some of its programmes. Similarly,several of our programmes have been hailed as models of best practices for other states.
The Maoist problem,in many ways,is linked to economic underdevelopment. How do you plan to blend security action,development and overall state responsiveness in a bid to confront this problem?
Left Wing Extremism is a matter of serious national concern. We have always believed in adopting a two pronged strategy for enforcement of the rule of law and development of the area in order to deal with the Maoist problem. Since this is a issue affecting several states,more effective inter-state joint task forces are required for anti-Maoist operations in the inter-state border areas. Though there has been a progressive improvement in my state,the situation is sensitive,both on the borders with Andhra Pradesh and also in the areas adjoining Chhattisgarh. In order to deal with this serious problem,we have to rise above party lines and tackle the issue unitedly.