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Naveen push for special status

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 19: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today called for a national mandate to ensure larger resource flows to the poorer states, like Orissa, besides reiterating the demand for special category status for the state.

The national mandate, he said, could be based on a three-pronged strategy Ś increase flow of Centre assistance to less-developed states, such as Orissa, greater fiscal space to them to facilitate mobilisation of internal resources and greater scope to swap high-cost central debt.

Though Orissa qualifies for the special-category status, the Centre has not favour- ably considered the proposal, said Naveen. Addressing the 54th meeting of the National Development Council at New Delhi today, the chief minister conceded that the 11th plan target (of nine per cent annual growth rate) was a challenge.

He said to achieve the goal, attention needs to be given to the widening gap between poor and rich states, to the poverty issue and to millennium development goals.

“Orissa has come a long way when it comes to the implementation of fiscal reform measures which have started showing positive results. Our endeavour during the 11th plan will be to consolidate the gains,” said the chief minister.

He stressed on increasing irrigation potential and drought-proofing in each state to reach the target of doubling agricultural growth rate in 11th plan. Orissa, Patnaik said, has a potential of around 59-lakh hectares, of which only 27.5-lakh hectares have been tapped.

He, therefore, urged the Centre to step up funding under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme and expand the scope of the programme to include lift irrigation projects. Naveen also sought investment in infrastructure development (roads, ports, railways, power generation) in order to improve and upgrade the infrastructure base necessary for industries and other related economic activities.

He urged the Union ministry to augment loan amount of $250 million to $360 million to help Orissa implement projects under World Bank-assisted Orissa State Road Project.

He added that the Centre should extend necessary support to Orissa to augment skilled human resources, by grounding prestigious institutes such as IIT, IIM and IIIT in the state.

The other major demands included exemption of income tax and central excise duty at least for 10 years for establishment of industries in the backward KBK region.

Orissa also sought early revision of royalty for coal and other major minerals on ad valorem basis, compensating power generating states by levying duty on generation of power and allocation of an appropriate portion of power to the host state and expeditious release of funds under various central schemes for urban development and rural electrification.

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