BJP asks Centre to release Rs 500 cr for calamity-hit Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Demanding immediate central assistance of Rs 500 crore for Odisha to expedite relief and restoration activities in cyclone and flood hit areas, senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu today accused the UPA government of neglecting the state.

"It is unfortunate that neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi nor any central minister found time to visit the calamity-hit people in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. This is despite the fact that Odisha was ravaged by cyclone Phailin and two consecutive floods," he told reporters after visiting some affected areas in worst-hit Ganjam district.

Naidu apparently supporting the ruling BJD, said the UPA government promptly provided financial assistance to Congress- ruled Uttarakhand and Assam during calamities but did not respond to Odisha disasters.

"It is all right that you (UPA) provided assistance to Uttarakhand and Assam as they were in need of help. Odisha is also hit by calamities and needs central assistance," he said, adding at least 18 districts of the state have been severely hit in the twin calamities.

Describing the cyclone and the subsequent floods as a "calamity of rare severity", Naidu said farmers were the worst affected, followed by poor people living in kutcha houses and fishermen on the coast.

"Farmers were the first casualty in the calamity as standing crop in over 15 lakh acres were damaged," he said.

The state government alone cannot restore and rehabilitate the affected. "Both Centre and the state should join hands for restoration and rehabilitation," he said, suggesting the state government spend from the National Disaster Relief Fund and SDRF.