At the 24th Eastern Zonal Council meeting in Bhubaneswar on Friday, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik demanded a special economic package for speeding up infrastructural development in the country’s eastern region, saying that it lags behind in many sectors despite being endowed with natural and mineral resources.
The meeting was chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah and attended by Patnaik, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
According to a statement released by the Odisha government, Patnaik stated that the eastern zone is at the bottom, nationwide, on tele-density, banking density and rail and road density. “There is a need to double the allotments made to this region,” he said.
Highlighting that one of the objectives of Zonal Councils is “national integration, healthy inter-state and Centre-state relations”, Patnaik said, “Integration has to be financial, infrastructural and technological, so it leads and strengthens emotional integration.”
He also mentioned that royalty on coal has not been revised since 2012. While saying that there is an urgent need to revise royalty, he also said the proceeds of the clean energy cess must be shared with the state government.
Patnaik also thanked the Centre for its support after the state was hit by cyclonic storm Fani and demanded that Odisha should be declared as a Special Focus State by accepting “vulnerability to natural calamities” as a criterion.
Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee told reporters after the meeting that there was no discussion on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or the NRC at the zonal council meeting, but she raised the issue of the violence in Delhi. Banerjee expressed concern over the riots in Delhi and said steps should be taken so that the situation doesn’t aggravate further. “I am very sad about what happened in Delhi. A police constable and an IB official also died. Peace must be restored in Delhi,” she told the meeting.
Asked if she would back the demand of Shah’s resignation in wake of the riots, she said, “The problem should be solved first and then we will discuss politics.”
At the meeting, she raised alleged negligence of the Centre towards her state. She claimed that West Bengal did not get the required assistance during natural calamities such as cyclone Fani and Bulbul, besides several other pending dues from the Centre. “We have not got Rs 50,000 crore from the Centre,” she said.
Bihar Chief Minister Kumar demanded demanded special category status at the meeting. He asserted that Bihar must be given “its due” to enable it to make rapid progress and contribute better to the overall development of the country.
Kumar also called for developing a mechanism for resolving interstate issues in the eastern region which shared a common cultural legacy and faced problems of similar nature.
With PTI inputs
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