Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: If not special category state status, Odisha at least deserves special treatment from the Centre. Battered periodically by natural calamities like cyclones and floods the state has a strong case for being put in the special category in terms of financial assistance.

The damage caused by a series of disastrous cyclones and floods has taken a huge toll on its economy. The worst, of course, was the super cyclone of 1999 which left nearly 10,000 people dead. Ever since there have been many others including the most recent one, Bulbul that followed hard on the heels of Fani which had left behind a trail of destruction on the coast from which people are yet to recover.

Bulbul has dealt a crippling blow to agriculture in five coastal districts including Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara which were among the worst hit by the gale. Preliminary assessments show that of the total crop area affected by the storm two lakh hectares have suffered losses to the extent of 33 per cent and above.

Not all central governments have been generous in their assistance towards Odisha in the wake of such disasters. Many a time in the past the state has fought bitterly with central governments on this issue. It also had a grouse against Narnedra Modi-led NDA 1 on this account though things have improved in the government’s second innings because of pure political reasons.

The clever politician that he is Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has been quick to realize that the country has now truly entered the era of coalitions irrespective of which party gets the majority. The realisation has also dawned on him that regional parties are increasingly going to play a significant role in India’s politics.

Hence, he began courting chief minister, Naveen Patnaik soon after the results of the last elections were announced. Naveen, too, reciprocated by reining in his party leaders from being unnecessarily harsh in their criticism of the Centre. The thaw in Centre-Odisha relations under the Modi dispensation has been dictated by mutual need. The BJP-led NDA needs Patnaik just as much as Odisha chief minister needs a friendly Centre.

So NDA-2’s assistance to Odisha in the wake of cyclone Fani was rather satisfactory and did not afford ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leaders much scope to grumble or target the Centre. But this has not always been the case. More often than not calamity assistance to Odisha has been meagre forcing the state government to fend for itself.

It is a tribute to the financial resilience of the state government that it has managed to save the economy from crashing and kept its welfare schemes going. But this cannot go on forever. It is about time the Centre realized the state’s need for special assistance and came forward to help it without any political bias. For argument sake one may accept that the Centre finds Odisha’s demand for special category state status unfeasible. There is also a bit of politics involved in it. But there is no denying the state’s claim for special assistance and the Centre should be generous in granting this.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)