Nothing much private in CM fund

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By SUBHASHISH MOHANTY
  • Published 11.11.13
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Bhubaneswar, Nov. 10: Generous donations have been made to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in the wake of two successive calamities in Odisha, but the contribution of private entrepreneurs seems to be nothing out of the ordinary.

In the aftermath of Phailin and subsequent floods, the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund has received Rs 156.74 crore. The share of industrial houses to the fund would be less than Rs 10 crore, said a state government official.

“All this notwithstanding, the state remains a hot destination for industry giants for its rich mineral resource base and assured infrastructure support. Significantly, the state government has signed nearly 94 MoUs in different fields to attract investments to the tune of Rs 7 lakh crore. In the steel sector alone, the state has signed 59 MoUs worth Rs 3.70 lakh crore,” official sources pointed out.

The bulk of the donation has come from the Central government-run agencies such as Mahanadi Coalfields Limited and the state-run public sector unit Odisha Mining Corporation. The two public sectors have donated Rs 50 crore each, while public sector enterprise National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation have contributed Rs 10 crore each for relief and restoration.

A look at the list of donors shows a substantial amount has come from other Centre-run organisations such as Nalco, Paradip Port Trust, Indian Oil Corporation, State Bank of India, Bank of India, IDBI Bank and Power Grid Corporation of India Limited.

State public enterprises such as Odisha Hydro Power Corporation, Odisha Power Grid Corporation, Odisha State Beverage Corporation, State Co-operative Bank, Odisha State Cooperative Bank, Odisha State Agricultural Marketing Board and others have made substantial contributions amounting to Rs 20 crore.

Quite a few private individuals, public personalities, MLAs and MPs have pledged to offer a month’s salary to the CM relief fund. Spiritual guru Dalai Lama and tennis star Sania Mirza feature in this list. Among bureaucrats, senior IAS officer CTM Suguna has donated Rs 1 lakh, while deputy chairman of state planning board Surendra Nath Nayak, senior MLA V. Sugnana Kumari Deo and a number of retired officers, including former chief secretary Bijay Patnaik, have also donated to the fund.

However, the response from the private sector has been far from impressive. It is another matter that the state has been receiving flak from the Opposition parties for recommending and granting special favours to the prospective industrial units on the ground that such ventures are significant for the state’s development.

Posco, which is in the process of setting up a Rs 52,000-crore integrated steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district, has made handed a cheque of Rs 1 crore to the government. Another industry heavyweight, Rungta Mines, has donated Rs 2 crore.

The Tata Group, which is setting up a Rs 15,000-crore project at Kalinga Nagar and runs a mining business, has contributed to the relief fund not in cash, but in kind.

Tata Steel’s chief of stakeholder management, Mohit Das said: “The group has given relief materials to 85,000 families, distributed 5,000 solar lanterns and given 100 diesel generators to the state. We have also provided technical manpower support to the Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited to restore electricity in Ganjam district.”

The lukewarm response from industrial houses has invited criticism both from the Opposition and the ruling parties.

Senior Congress leader and former law minister Narasingha Mishra said: “The industrialists, who are exploiting the state’s resources for their own benefit, should have come forward to help the people in times of distress. When public undertakings are liberally donating to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, why are industrialists shying away from their social responsibilities?”

Finance minister Prasanna Acharya almost echoed Mishra. However, steel and mines minister Rajanikant Singh said: “We will not force any company to contribute to the relief fund. It has to be done voluntarily.”

Senior BJP leader and former minister Bijay Mohapatra said: “The government has given them enough favours. They should come forward and generously contribute for the state’s cause.”

On the other hand, Odisha Pradesh Congress chief Jaydev Jena saw a lack faith in the Naveen Patnaik government for industrial houses not coming forward to donate to the CM’s relief fund.