The Narendra Modi Government once again neglected Odisha and turned a deaf ear to the State Govt’s request for Central assistance towards restoration and rehabilitation work in its Hudhud affected districts.
In a meeting of the high level committee, chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday in New Delhi, it was decided to provide assistance from National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) to states affected by natural disasters.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and senior officers of the Ministries of Home Affairs, Finance and Agriculture also attended the meeting.
Ignoring Odisha’s proposals, the committee decided to provide financial assistance to Andhra Pradesh for Hudhud cyclone, Arunachal Pradesh for floods and landslides and Karnataka for floods and drought.
The committee also examined the proposal for financial assistance to Uttar Pradesh where some parts of the state were affected by hailstorm and some parts affected by drought.
It may be recalled that the severe cyclone Hudhud, which hit Odisha on 12 Oct. 2014, had damaged about 70,000 thatched houses, power network and roads, and took many human lives across 22 affected districts of Odisha.
In Nov. 2014, the state government had submitted a memorandum to the Union Home Ministry demanding an assistance of Rs 777.12 crore for restoration and rehabilitation work in Hudhud affected areas.
An eight-member Central team had also visited four cyclone-hit districts of Odisha including Rayagada, Malkangiri, Koraput and Gajapati to take stock of the damage caused by cyclone Hudhud.
This January, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs visited different villages in cyclone-battered Ganjam district and assessed the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by the state government in the aftermath of the natural calamities like Phailin and Hudhud.
“We will place the problems of the people in the Parliament and ensure that the people of Odisha get maximum benefits,” the six-member committee headed by its chairman P Bhattacharya had said.
“The committee will also try to ensure that Odisha gets more cyclone aid from the Centre,” Baijayanta Panda, one of the committee members had said.
The state government had urged the Parliamentary Standing Committee to persuade the Central government to urgently allocate arrear funds due to it towards Phailin assistance from the NDRF instead of insisting on meeting it from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
However, Special Relief Commissioner of the state, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, said , “We presented all facts to the committee on the steps we had taken with regard to relief and rescue operations during cyclone Hudhud and funds sought by us from the Centre. There was detailed discussion on the matter. We have urged them to recommend to the Centre to release arrears of Rs 399.83 crore by way of assistance towards reconstruction work in Phailin-hit areas from NDRF instead of insisting on footing the bill from the SDRF. We insisted on its release from NDRF. The committee has assured that it will incorporate our demand in its report,”
The Central Govt’s carrot and stick policy with Odisha may not augur well for it. At a time when the BJP is clearly on a soft gear with the Naveen Patnaik Govt over equations in the parliament, blowing hot and cold over sensitive issues like Central assistance may mar relations . Moreover, denying the State what it actually deserves is an open snub and definitely needs introspection on NDA’s part.