After it was recently hit by cyclone Fani, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has in his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged for the states hit by major disasters to be declared as ‘Special Focus States’ and to be accorded with benefits of the special category status for a specified period.

Patnaik justified his demands for Odisha by citing the unique geo-climatic conditions of the state, which make it vulnerable to multiple and frequent natural disasters.

From 1900 to 2019, Odisha has experienced one or the other disaster like flood, cyclone or drought every year.

“Odisha has been affected by about 35 per cent of all the cyclonic and severe cyclonic storms that have crossed the eastern coast of India,” Patnaik said while urging the prime minister to include natural calamity as an indicator to accord special category status to Odisha.

This will supplement the state’s efforts for inclusive growth and development, he said adding the state should be provided central assistance on 90:10 sharing pattern for centrally sponsored schemes.

“Pending consideration of this (natural calamity as an indicator for SCS) request, states hit by major calamities may be declared as special focus states and granted benefits of special category status for a specific period,” Patnaik said.

Special focus state status will help reconstruction of infrastructure and restoration of livelihoods.

“This will not only help Odisha but any state of the country which is hit by a major natural calamity,” Patnaik said.

He also thanked the prime minister for the Union government’s support for effective management of Cyclone Fani which ravaged the coastal districts of Odisha early May.

Patnaik told Modi that the cyclone caused massive devastation to property and livelihood of people. About 5.6 lakh houses were damaged and millions of trees uprooted and crops, orchards and animals perished.

Public infrastructure like electricity transmission and distribution, drinking water supply, roads and bridges, canal embankments, health centres, school buildings and community assets suffered huge damage, Patnaik said.

Noting that electricity infrastructure has to be rebuilt afresh, he urged Modi to sanction 5 lakh Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin) Special Houses for Odisha on a sharing pattern of 90:10 as a special case. The Permanent Wait List (PWL) criterion should also be waived for this special allocation, he said.

Patnaik informed the prime minister that the state government had already submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs after assessment by different departments. The loss to public properties and funds required for prompt relief measures was assessed at about Rs 9,336 crore.

However, keeping in view the present State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) norms, Odisha was seeking assistance of about Rs 5,228 crore from the NDRF immediately to meet the expenditure on the ongoing relief and restoration works in cyclone-hit areas, he said.

Patnaik also pointed out that the reconstruction of damaged public infrastructure largely falls outside the ambit of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) with a few exceptions.

“Additional assistance from NDRF provided in case of a calamity of a severe nature is highly inadequate relative to damage to infrastructure and livelihoods. This implied that the state had no other alternative but to manage recovery and reconstruction from its own limited resources, which was not fair,” Patnaik said.

Therefore, he urged Modi that the reconstruction of damaged public infrastructure should also be brought into the SDRF/ NDRF norms so that adequate resources can be provided to the state for recovery and reconstruction.

Patnaik also brought to the notice of the prime minister that Odisha produced about one-fifth of the total coal produced in the country.

The state was bearing the brunt of adverse effects of coal mining such as environmental pollution, displacement of mining-affected population and strain on water resources and infrastructure, he said.

He also expressed concern over non-revision of royalty on coal and said it was last revised on May 10, 2012. “The additional revenue generated by royalty revision will immensely help the state to accelerate development works,” Patnaik said, urging the prime minister to revise the royalty on coal from 14 per cent to 20 per cent of the sale value.

He also congratulated Modi for winning the people’s mandate for the second term.

With Inputs From PTI