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Bhubaneswar: The 24th meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council, comprising States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal will be held in Bhubaneswar tomorrow. Union Home Minister Amit Shah will chair the crucial meeting while Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik will attend the meeting as Vice-Chairman and host. Chief Minister of Bihar - Nitish Kumar, West Bengal CM - Mamata Banerjee and Jharkhand CM - Hemant Soren, will also participate.

Interestingly, Mamata Banerjee would meet HM Amit Shah for the first time after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was enacted.

The Chief Ministers will be accompanied by two Cabinet Ministers from each State, as members of the Council, and Chief Secretary and other senior officers of the States. Secretaries/Additional Secretaries and other senior officers of the Central Government will also attend the meeting.

The EZ Council meeting will discuss nearly 4 dozen issues which include inter-State water issues, power transmission lines, royalty on and operationalization of coals mines, land & forest clearance of rail projects, investigation of heinous offences, cattle smuggling across country's borders, lack of telecom & banking infrastructure in remote areas, petroleum projects, sharing pattern on centrally collected revenues among other things.

With such senior level participation of political leadership and officers, it is expected that a large number of issues will be resolved by consensus in the meeting.

"We will raise issues like coal royalty and lack of mobile connectivity in 11,000 villages in the State during the Eastern Zonal Council meeting tomorrow," said Odisha Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy.

Reportedly, five Zonal Councils were set up in 1957 under Section 15-22 of the States Reorganization Act, 1956. The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these five Zonal Councils and Chief Minister of the host State, to be chosen by rotation every year, is the Vice-Chairman. Two more Ministers from each State are nominated as Members by the Governor. The Council takes up issues involving Centre and States, and among Member-States falling in the Zone and thus provide a forum for resolving disputes and irritants between them.

The Zonal Councils deliberates upon broad range of issues, which include boundary related disputes, security, infrastructure related matters like road, transport, industries, water and power etc., matters pertaining to forests & environment, housing, education, food security, tourism, transport, etc.

The last meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council was last held in Kolkata on October 1, 2018.

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