Odisha CM supports move to revamp plan panel

New Delhi: Supporting Narendra Modi- government’s move to restructure Planning Commission, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday said the initiative was aimed at shaping the shared vision of transforming India in the spirit of cooperative federalism.

Participating in the Chief Ministers’ meeting convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the issue, Patnaik said the structure and processes of the new planning institutional set up must be framed in a manner that ensures “just, fair and equitable resource allocation respecting the principles of federal polity.”

Patnaik said the Prime Minister is well aware of the problems that the opposition-ruled states face on account of Centre’s bias as both of them have experienced the planning process from the other side for over a decade.

“The planning process and distribution of resources during last six decades have not entirely been guided by merit and necessity which has resulted in a serious imbalance in development across states and unsatisfactory performance in human development indicators,” the Chief Minister said.

Proliferation of centrally-sponsored schemes has gradually eroded the flexibility of the states in designing development programmes suited to the specific needs of the states, he said.

Giving examples of how Odisha was “deprived of its due share in the past”, he said, “Despite Odisha contributing over Rs 14,000 crore annually or about one-tenth of the total revenues of the Indian Railways, the Railways have not been able to plough back even 20 per cent of the collected revenues into the state.”

“Accordingly, the railway density in Odisha at 15 km remains significantly lower than the national average,” Patnaik added.

Till date, three-fourth of total gram panchayats in the state do not have a brick and mortar bank branch. How can financial inclusion be ensured when three-fourth of the state does not even have a banking system in place? he asked.

Patnaik said that no other state or region in the country faces natural disasters with such frequency and magnitude as Odisha faces almost every alternate year.

Reminding of the horrific impacts of the natural disasters in Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh, he asserted that these cause colossal loss of infrastructure, lives and livelihood of people requiring huge time, effort and resources to rebuild people’s lives and the state’s economy.

He flagged the issue of natural disasters having a huge impact on the planning process and resources of the state and desired that the resource allocation planning should take into account these factors.

The CM mentioned that repeated natural disasters have perpetuated poverty and under-development in Odisha and it is in this context that Odisha has been demanding the status of special category state along with adequate flow of central resources to address substantial inter-state disparities.

He expressed his support to the major initiatives of the Prime Minister aimed at nation building including Make in India, Swachha Bharat and Skill India.

He, however, said that no nation can progress without empowering women and insisted upon that gender should be made an integral part of the planning process.

He also urged upon the Prime Minister that the new planning process must respect inclusive growth which is an important mandate of our Constitution and that the social sectors and initiatives for empowerment of tribals and other vulnerable sections should not get hit by any resource constraint.

Patnaik emphasised that the problems encountered by states are unique to them and efforts need to be made to tailor development programmes to meet their local needs.

Supporting the decision to replace the Planning Commission with a suitable arrangement to address the issues highlighted by him, he said that there is a need to create an effective mechanism for sharing the tax revenues for enabling the states to prepare their plans based on local needs.

He suggested that the Finance Commission can either be strengthened or a suitable new arrangement could be thought of.