Odisha govt conspiring to stall coastal highway project: Dharmendra Pradhan

Bhubaneswar/ New Delhi: Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today accused Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of intentionally trying to stall the Digha-Gopalpur coastal highway project under the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana.’ Addressing a presser at New Delhi, Pradhan alleged that Odisha government is opposing the Rs 9,000 crore-project out of desperation and fear that PM Narendra Modi might get all credit.

“On one hand Odisha CM is writing letters to PM Narendra Modi and on the other, he himself is opposing the coastal highway project,” alleged Pradhan.

Pradhan said that the detailed project report for the coastal highway project was prepared in February 2016 and a preliminary alignment of the proposed project was presented before the additional chief secretary and development commissioner of Odisha government on September 3, 2016. The officials of State government had appreciated the proposal and agreed in principle, Pradhan said.

On April 7, 2018, Odisha chief secretary reviewed the alignment and suggested certain modifications and subsequently NHAI requested the State government to extend cooperation for the completion of the pre-construction activity. Competent Authority for Land Acquisition (CALA) was appointed by Government of India under the NH Act in November 2018 and 3 out of 15 CALAs have already completed the land verification process.

However, the State government is adopting delaying tactics and has not been forthcoming in extending the requisite clearances, alleged Pradhan.

The Union Minister further stated that Odisha has been neglected on several fronts during the Congress government at the Centre, but it has received maximum benefit during NDA-1 government led by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the current NDA-2 led by PM Narendra Modi.

At present Centre’s focus is on infrastructure & economic development and employment generation for which PM Modi visited Odisha on January 5 and 15 and inaugurated several projects worth Rs 20,000 crore, Pradhan said adding that out of jealousy, the BJD-led State government is not executing the projects properly.

Meanwhile, responding to Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s allegations, BJD leader Pratap Jena said, “Union cabinet approved the coastal highway project almost two and a half years after the project was announced. We have held discussion with NHAI officials and the Centre. But unfortunately, the Centre is keen on executing the project on the existing route.”

Jena further alleged that the Centre is keeping Odisha government completely in the dark and wants to execute it unilaterally.

“The Union Minister is in a habit of telling lies and all his allegations are completely baseless,” Jena added.