New Delhi, May 28: Lone minister representing Odisha in the Union cabinet Jual Oram has sought to downplay the issue of demand for special category status to the state but said he would work for a special package for it instead.
Despite the manifesto published by the BJP state unit saying that the party will work for special category status for Odisha, Oram said he was not keen for such status. Incidentally, the national manifesto of the party was silent on the issue.
“The special category status is not that much helpful. We are in favour of special package for Odisha. I will work towards that,” Oram told The Telegraph after taking over charge as the minister for tribal affairs.
The BJD government in Odisha has been demanding special category status for the state. It had targeted the previous Congress-led UPA government of step-motherly attitude towards the state by not according the status to Odisha. The BJD had organised a rally at Ramlila ground here last year in support of its demand.
The demand of the state government assumes significance in the backdrop of an expert central panel headed by Raghuram G. Rajan identifying Odisha as the most under-developed state in the country. That panel has recommended additional central support but fell short of recommending its inclusion in the list special category states.
At present, 11 states — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand — enjoy the special category status.
These states get 90 per cent grants under central schemes while other states get about 75 per cent grants. These states also get concessions on central tax to be able to attract companies to set up projects.
Dharmendra Pradhan, who took over as the minister of independent charge for petroleum, avoided a question on demand for special category status for Odisha.
“Our party is committed to development of the eastern states.” Pradhan, who belongs to Odisha but represents Bihar in Rajya Sabha, said.
Oram said his priority would be proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act, which seeks to provide record of rights to forest dwellers.
“We will accelerate the issuance of patta under the Forest Rights Act. I am reviewing its implementation tomorrow,” Oram said.
The ministry will also review the land given to mining companies in Fifth Scheduled areas, where land cannot be alienated from tribal people.