Union minister for petroleum & natural gas and skill development & entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan fired a salvo at the Odisha government for scuttling projects across sectors valued at Rs 1.36 trillion.
Odisha’s leadership which has been blaming the Centre on and off for its woes was at the receiving end with Pradhan accusing it of throwing a spanner in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Purvodaya’ (Rise of the East).
Addressing newspersons here, the minister said, “Whether it is the projects proposed by central government companies or our flagship programmes like Ayushman Bharat, the Odisha government is deliberately creating roadblocks. The government here attaches importance on industrialisation but the situation on the ground is the reverse of what they claim”.
Pradhan said the state government’s apathy in awarding land and swift clearances had slowed the tempo of growth in Odisha. “We have no political intent in rolling out the projects. But the state government blocks them fearing that the Narendra Modi government would grab credit for it”.
His ministry has been one of the worst victims of the Odisha government’s alleged frigid stand with projects worth Rs 51395 crore and non-petroleum investments valued at Rs 15413 crore being stalled. Other sectors where projects suffered similar fate are road transport & highways (Rs 56,563 crore), railways (Rs 12286 crore), health & education (Rs 560 crore) and tourism & heritage (Rs 200 crore), the minister said, giving a break-down of ‘obstructed projects’.
Pradhan said even his personal interventions tapping into different communication modes like letters and telephone conversations with the higher-ups in Odisha have ended in smoke. “In my capacity as the Union minister, I have written 62 letters to the chief minister, including 44 since 2017 on myriad issues. But only one letter dated April 24, 2017 has been acknowledged by the additional chief secretary”, he said in a tone of exasperation.
He went on to say that Odisha now seeks answers from the incumbent government on projects stalled and development derailed. “Senior leaders from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) revel in calling me a ‘habitual liar’. However, the people of Odisha know who are the real liars”, he said, taking a sly dig at the ruling BJD.
Turning to the episode of spat between the Odisha government and Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), Pradhan said it was his ministry that brokered peace between the sparring parties. “When the Paradip refinery was awarded concessions, the Congress government was in power at the Centre while the Naveen Patnaik government ruled Odisha. Grant of concessions was not in the interest of Odisha”.
The minister rued that the Odisha government even after reconciliation was denying IOCL the opportunity to expand in Odisha, stifling a company that has already sunk in Rs 34,000 crore on installing a 15 million tonne crude oil refinery at Paradip.
“We intend to ramp up the Paradip refinery’s capacity to 25 million tonnes. The capacity will be created for petrochemicals and raw materials and Rs 22,000 crore more will be invested more. But our request for allotting 2290 acres land has gone unheeded. This government can allot land to Jindals and private companies but not to IOCL”, he said.
Besides IOCL, foreign investors including a Taiwanese petrochem company which pledged Rs 43,000 crore during the ‘Make in Odisha 2018’ conclave suffered due to non-cooperation of the state government, he opined.
Pradhan enlisted a bouquet of strategic projects where an ‘unresponsive’ Odisha government played spoilsport- the Rs 6500-crore strategic crude oil reserve, Rs 10,000-crore coastal highway, Rs 10,000-crore expansion by NTPC Ltd, Rs 5500-crore ramp-up of Damanjodi alumina refinery by National Aluminium Company (Nalco), plastic park project at Paradip, textiles park at Bhadrak, a medical college cum hospital built by Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) and a string of railways and highways projects. The projects were stuck either because of non-allotment of land or grant of approvals and in a few cases, the lack of a no-objection certificate.
On the recently launched Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, the minister said, the state government was not sending the list of beneficiaries and was instead, smug with their own KALIA (Krushak Assistance for Livelihood & Income Augmentation) scheme.
He also assailed the state government for failing to utilise funds accruing to DMF (District Mineral Foundation). “Though Rs 6438 crore has been deposited in the state’s DMF, only Rs 1011 crore is utilized. A third party study has exposed the state government’s misplaced focus in spending the funds”.