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Cong challenges Naveen to debate

- We will reply to all issues raised by chief minister: Srikant Jena

Bhubaneswar, March 6: The Congress today refuted charges made by chief minister Naveen Patnaik at his election meetings yesterday and challenged him to an open debate on the issues raised by him.

“We will certainly answer all the issues raised by him from revision of mineral royalty to the issue of granting special-category status to Odisha. He must come for a public debate. We want him to respond to our invitation and if he fails to do it, we will go to him after Monday,” said Congress campaign committee chairman Srikant Jena.

The BJD supremo had accused the Center of step-motherly attitude by not revising royalty on minerals and according special category state status to the state. Naveen also raised the issue of the Odia pride and tried to connect with the people.

Responding to the Naveen’s allegations, Jena said: “Naveen, who encourages illegal mining, is talking of revision of mineral royalty. It is surprising. The state has lost nearly Rs 60,000 crore owing to rampant loot of minerals. A CBI inquiry should unearth the scam. Whoever found guilty should be punished. Justice M.B. Shah Commission also favoured a CBI probe into it.”

Media committee chairman Narasingh Mishra said: “When Naveen was a central minister in the NDA, he had rejected the Odisha’s demand for a revision of royalty on coal.”

Mishra also said that despite the Opposition’s repeated demand, the state failed to draft the right sort of bill on tax on mineral-bearing land.

“We have asked him to adopt the rules framed by Bengal or followed the rules framed in 1991 by the Biju Patnaik government to collect taxes on mineral-bearing lands. If the government had reacted, the state could have collected nearly Rs 10,000 crore a year from mine owners.”

In 2005, the Naveen Patnaik government had enacted the Odisha Rural Infrastructure and Socio Economic Development Act to levy a mining cess on all mineral bearing land at a rate not exceeding 20 per cent of the annual value of such land. This law, was, however, struck down by the Odisha courts as a number of flaws surfaced. Later, the state government appealed to the Supreme Court, where the matter is still pending.

The Congress leaders also raised questions on the government’s claim on the subsidised Re 1-a-kg rice scheme. “The Centre gives 35kg rice for each BPL family. But the state is only giving 25kg to these families. What is happening to the remaining 10kg?”

On the issue of the special category state status to Odisha, former chief minister Giridhar Gamang said: “I also raised the issue when I was chief minister. Naveen should take all into confidence while raising the issue.” The Congress leadership also said the special category state status had not yet been accorded to yet-to-be-born Seemandhra.

While the Congress leadership targeted the government, the state BJP leaderships accused the government of misutilising funds from the government treasury.

“Bharat Nirman Sevaks, who are voluntary workers, are being used by Naveen Patnaik for electoral purpose,” said BJP senior leader Samir Mohanty.

“The BJD is giving these sevaks a kit containing an EVM machine and a dossier prepared by the state government. Naveen is doing this with an ulterior motive. We have drawn it to the notice of the election commission,” he said.

In another development, senior Congress leader and former minister Kamala Das today resigned from the Congress and is set to join the BJD. Former minister and BJP leader Golak Naik today also formally joined the ruling party.


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