Throwback 2017: Major reforms, Schemes and Bills
By Dillip Kumar and Pratik Patra
2017 brought many new things. It also renewed, reformed and shed some. The year saw new policies, announcements and reforms. Here’s a list of some big, bold & boastful ones.
VAT, GST rollout
Preparing the ground for transition to a new taxation regime, the Odisha Assembly unanimously passed the Goods & Services Tax (GST) Bill, 2017 and the Value Added Tax (VAT) Bill, 2017. Both the Bills were passed through a voice vote following a debate during a two-day special session of the Assembly convened on May 18 and 19.
Mega lift irrigation project
In a bid to woo the voters ahead of the by-election in Bijepur Assembly constituency, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a mega lift canal system. The Rs 1250-crore project, named Gangadhar Meher Lift Canal System, is purported to be the first of its kind with underground pipeline-based irrigation system. The project which received Cabinet nod a week after the announcement, envisages providing irrigation to rain-fed and drought-prone areas of about 32,000 hectares in Bijepur, Sohela and Barpalli blocks of Bargarh district.
Piped gas launch
Rolling out the most ambitious central scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga’ (PMUG) in Odisha, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the piped natural gas (PNG) project at Nalco Nagar area in Bhubaneswar on October 20. With the inauguration, GAIL will supply environment-friendly PNG to residential houses. PMUG will pass through five States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. The longest stretch of the project, which is about 769km, will be built in Odisha. The Centre will invest Rs 4,000 crore in Odisha for the construction of the natural gas pipeline. It will cover 13 districts including Bhadrak, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Angul, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Deogarh, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Khurda, Puri and Kendrapara.
Adding to its existing specialised wings— the Special Operation Group (SOG) and Special Tactical Unit (STU), the Odisha Police in June formed another special wing named Odisha Swift Action Force (OSAF) on the lines of Odisha Rapid Action Force. With a motto, “We serve, We Protect,” OSAF made its debut during the Ratha Jatra.
5 projects under Bharatmala
Five different projects including two economic corridors for Odisha got Union Cabinet nod under the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana,’ touted to be the country’s biggest ever road construction and expansion programme. The projects cleared by the Union government include a Multimodal Logistic Park at Jagatsinghpur, two economic corridors – Sambalpur-Paradip and Sambalpur-Ranchi along with two ring roads in Bhubaneswar and Sambalpur.
Land rights for poor
In a major respite to lakhs of urban poor, the Assembly passed the much-awaited Odisha Land Rights to Slum Dwellers Bill, 2017 on September 13. In view of continuous demographic shift from rural to urban areas, the government decided to enact a separate legislation to provide land rights to identified slum dwellers for development, rehabilitation and upgradation of slums in Municipal Council areas and NACs.
Odia language boost
To boost higher studies and research in Odia language and literature, Odisha Assembly passed the University of Odia Language and Literature Bill, 2017 on September 13 for establishment of a unitary university in State. To be headquartered in Bhubaneswar, the university seeks to foster usage of Odia in modern disciplines like literary criticism, pedagogy, history, philosophy, law, economics, geology, management, sciences, commerce, engineering and medical sciences.
Landmarks in civil aviation
The Odisha government is all set to develop four regional airports-Utkela, Jeypore, Jharsuguda and Rourkela for regional air connectivity under the much-trumpeted UDAN scheme which is a key component of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP). Biju Patnaik International Airport, Bhubaneswar has also been included in the list for regional connectivity from State capital. Moreover, the State got its first international flight which took off from Biju Patnaik airport on July 11. The Air India flight, AI078, took off with 38 international passengers. The State got its first direct international flight from Bhubaneswar to Kuala Lumpur in April. Besides, the international air cargo operations which were stopped since 2003 re-commenced at the Biju Patnaik international airport in 2017.
Block grant system abolished
The days-long agitation of block grant teachers finally came to an end on September 1 after CM Naveen Patnaik announced abolition of the 13-year-old block grant system for schools and colleges. Instead, the government decided to introduce grant-in-aid system for teachers working in these institutions from January 1, 2018.
100% penalty on miners
The Supreme Court on August 3 imposed a 100% penalty on leaseholders for minerals extracted without forest and environment clearances, mining outside lease/permitted area and for encroachment beyond the mining area. It ruled that 100% penalty will be levied on miners’ total value of minerals extracted through illegal mining over the years.
The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) took a significant decision to take over the management of Mahalaxmi temple located on Srimandir precincts. The SJTA has decided to lay down certain guidelines for proper management of the Mahalaxmi temple. Besides, the Srimandir administration also decided to enforce a code of conduct for the servitors that included not carrying mobile phones with camera into the temple.
Record budget for railways
Odisha received the highest-ever budgetary allocation of Rs 5,102 crore for different railway projects in the annual budget presented by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitely in February.
Odisha had demanded Rs 5,870 crore for development of railway infrastructure in the State.