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Funds lesson for Naveen

Bhubaneswar, May 5: Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today asked the Odisha government to stop criticising the Centre and start utilising central funds, so that more could be allocated to the state.

Making his displeasure obvious over BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik’s constant tirade against the Centre, the Union minister said: “There are leaders in the state, who have become great champions of federalism. Stop complaining about each action of the Centre. We have opened our purse for the state, but it has failed to take the benefit.”

Led by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, the ruling party has in the recent past organised a series of rallies against the Centre, alleging that the state was being treated in a step-motherly fashion.

Announcing that a special development plan would be initiated on the model of the Saranda plan for Malkangiri and its adjoining district, Sukama in Chhattisgarh, the minister said: “The department has already formulated the plan and it would be announced within three months. Thrust would be given for the infrastructure development of these areas like that of the Saranda in Jharkhand.”

The Centre has already announced Rs 250 crore package for the development of the Saranda areas, which were recently liberated by the CRPF from Maoists. The minister said political leadership would be involved on the issue of spending money coming under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP). Now, 18 districts of Odisha has come under the IAP and each district is getting Rs 30 crore per annum.

Accusing the state for its negligence in getting more funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Ramesh said: “While Bihar was able to spend Rs 3,000 crore last year, Odisha spent only Rs 1,000 crore. Even Jharkhand had spent Rs 1,400 crore. We are ready to give Rs 3,000 crore to 4,000 crore to the state. But, there is no demand from Odisha.”

Pointing out that Odisha is the only state where the CBI inquiry into the NREGA is going on, the minister said: “In order to bring transparency, the ministry has asked to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to monitor each pie spend on the rural development.”

The minister further said that from this year each gram panchayat would go through auditing on the expenditure of the NREGA by a charted accountant certified by the CAG. “ There must be 10 to 15 per cent physical verification of the records,” he said.

The minister further said his department was generous towards Odisha. “Last year, the rural department (RD) had sanctioned Rs 2,500 crore to construct 6,000km rural road under the Pradhanmantri Gramya Sadak Yojana. During the current financial year, the RD will also allocate another Rs 2,500 crore to construct another 6,000km rural roads,” he said.

The minister also asked the Odisha government to transfer the control of transit pass enjoyed by the forest department to the gram panchayats. He also said the department had sanctioned one lakh Indira Awas to the beneficiaries of the Forest Rights Act.

In yet another development, AICC leader in charge of Odisha Jagdish Tytler, who arrived here today, said: “We are preparing for the 2014 election. I have to defeat Naveen. This government has totally utterly failed in all fronts.” However, Union health minister and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was also in the city, refrained from attacking the state government. Azad later addressed the annual function of Utkal University Students’ Union where the students requested him to persuade the Centre to set up a medical college under the university. The minister assured the students that he would look into the issue.

Senior BJD leader and minister Suryo Narayan Patro responded to Tytler’s tirade, saying that defeating Naveen was a daydream. “They should first win the zilla parishad elections,” he teased.