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Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today reiterated the demand of special category status for the State. In a letter to PM Narendra Modi, Patnaik claimed that though Odisha has made significant progress in various sectors, it is lagging behind on several fronts including rail network, tele density, banking network and coverage, national highways and air connectivity due to neglect by successive Central governments. Naveen highlighted that in the premise of historical Central neglect & frequent natural calamities that his government has been demanding special category status, which will supplement its efforts in transforming the State.

"Odisha faced massive destruction in the very severe cyclonic storm ‘Titli’ in October 2018. The State has taken all possible measures to secure life and property; to provide relief to people; and to restore connectivity, power and drinking water supply. We now face a daunting long term task of recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation that require huge resources," Naveen wrote.

"During the period from 1900 to 2018, the State has experienced one or the other disasters like flood, cyclone, tornado or drought every year. In some years, we have faced multiple disasters in the same year. More than 80 per cent of the geographical area and nearly 90 per cent of population of our State are vulnerable to one or more disasters. Odisha has been affected by about 35 per cent of all the cyclonic and severe cyclonic storms that have crossed the eastern coast of India. With the current trend of the climatic change, the coastal areas of Odisha are likely to be more vulnerable to extreme climatic events and severe cyclonic disturbances," he added.

The present mechanisms of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) are based on recommendations of Central Finance Commissions. The annual corpus of SDRF of each State is fixed with Central and State share, which takes care of only immediate relief and restoration. The reconstruction of damaged public infrastructure falls outside the ambit of SDRF and NDRF norms with a few exceptions. Additional assistance from NDRF provided in case of a calamity of a severe nature is highly inadequate relative to damage to infrastructure and livelihoods leaving the State with no alternative but to manage recovery and reconstruction from its own limited resources, wrote Naveen, in his letter.

Citing that despite several challenges the State has made steady progress on socio economic development front, Naveen said Odisha is registering a growth rate higher than the nation's growth rate and providing special category status will further accelerate industrial development and in turn create more jobs for the youths of the State.

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