Montek rejects Odisha

Bhubaneswar:  Odisha’s long-standing demand for Special Category Status received a major setback on Wednesday after Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia apprised Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik that the State does not qualify for such status under the existing criteria.

In a letter to the CM, Ahluwalia said Odisha does not satisfy the criterion of hilly and difficult terrain, one of the five main features considered for Special Status to States, although forests in some areas of the State pose some difficulties.

The letter too pointed out that the density of population of Odisha relative to general density of population in Special Category States is not low. “The proportion of tribal population in case of Odisha is relatively high as compared to the General Category States, but is lower than several Special Category States,” it read.

Ahluwalia said though the Special Category Status for distribution of central assistance has been granted in the past to States which were charactarised by a number of features necessitating special consideration, for Odisha the criterion of strategic location along international borders is not satisfied.

 “In the field of infrastructure, Odisha’s status is less than national average in terms of irrigation potential created and railway route per 100 sq kms. However in terms of National Highway density, other roads and power infrastructure, Odisha’s position is satisfactory.  Thus this criterion appears to be partially satisfied,” he said.

Mentioning about the economy of Odisha, Ahluwalia made it clear that “Odisha presents a mixed picture” in the criterion of economic and infrastructural backwardness.

The letter further stated that the state of Odisha’s finances is stable and viable with sound indicators of fiscal deficit, outstanding liabilities and interest payments to total revenue receipts. The balance of current revenue (BCR) is also positive which contributes to plan resources. Thus this criterion is not satisfied, it said.

“I hope you would appreciate that under the existing criteria approved by the National Development Council (NDC), Odisha does not qualify for the grant of Special Category Status”, Ahluwalia noted.