The BJD has called for a 12-hour shutdown in the state on April 26, protesting against the central governmentâ€™s â€œapathetic attitudeâ€ towards Odisha by denying a special category status to it.
Announcing this at a media conference on Saturday, Finance Minister Prasanna Acharya, Health and Family Welfare Minister Damodar Rout, Biju Mahila Janata Dal (BMJD) president Pramila Mallik and Biju Yuva Janata Dal (BYJD) president Sanjay Dasburma said the party will stage a dharna in front of the Raj Bhavan on April 22 to protest against the continuous discrimination of Odisha by the Centre.
“Resolutions will also be adopted in all 6,236 gram panchayats, 314 panchayat samitis, 30 zilla parishads and 103 urban local bodies demanding special category status for Odisha. We will also collect 1 crore signatures in support of our demand and hand over the same to President Pranab Mukherjee,” he added.
The immediate provocation for calling a statewide strike was the Centreâ€™s allocation of Rs 1,250 crore for the KBK region under the state plan of the Backward Regions Grant Fund, while it released Rs 12,000 crore under the same scheme for Bihar. The fund scheme, which started in 2006-07, is designed to redress regional imbalances in development.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik criticised the Centre for neglecting the State on political considerations. â€œIt is most unfortunate that the Centre is discriminating against Odisha on political considerations. This is a clear case of negligence of our State once again,â€ Naveen said.
Countering the BJD charge, state Congress president Niranjan Patnaik blamed the Odisha government for failing to get adequate central funds. “It is because of the state government’s inefficiency. Bihar is also ruled by a non-Congress party, but how is it managing to get central funds?” he asked. Niranjan said a Congress delegation from the state would soon meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, finance minister P Chidambaram to press for special category status for Odisha. “What the NDA had failed to give, the UPA was likely to provide to Odisha,” he claimed.
The Finance Minister alleged that the State is going to lose over Rs 2,000 crore in the plan and non-plan sectors because of the budget cuts effected by the Centre and Rs 5,000 crore as per the recommendations of the Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC).
Health minister and BJD vice-president Damodar Rout said, “Odisha has been suffering central neglect since decades in different sectors including railways, disaster management and infrastructure development. It was high time people from all walks of life come together to lodge a strong protest.”