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Coal royalty revision,special eco package figure at EZC meet


Press Trust of India Bhubaneswar
Immediate revision of coal royalty and a special economic package for speedy development of the region were among the major demands raised at the Eastern Zonal Council (EZC) meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah here on Friday.
The meeting, attended by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his West Bengal and Bihar counterparts Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar, respectively, was skipped by Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren.
Soren, who was unable to attend the meeting, deputed state's Finance Minister Rameshwar Oraon to the meet.
Though no reason for Soren's absence at the meeting was cited, it was perhaps because of the commencement of the month-long budget session of the Jharkhand Assembly, sources said.
It is not known what Amit Shah said at the meeting, but chief ministers raised issues concerning their states as well as for the region during the meeting.
Patnaik, who is the vice-chairman of the council and host, batted for the entire east zone and demanded a special economic package for the region, saying the states lag in many sectors despite being endowed with natural and mineral resources.
Patnaik also urged that Odisha be declared a "Special Focus State" in view of frequent natural disasters faced by the state and its vulnerability to natural calamity.
All the participant states demanded that coal royalty, which has not been revised since 2012, be hiked forthwith. All the four eastern states - Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand are coal bearing areas.
Lamenting delay in revision in coal royalty, Patnaik said there is an urgent need to revise royalty on coal and also to share proceeds of clean energy cess with the state government.
He said the entire eastern region lags in teledensity, railway density and banking density and, therefore, needs to be given a special economic package for speeding up Infrastructural Development of the zone.
Emphasising that this zone contributes maximum to the mineral wealth of the country and in turn manufacturing and energy security, he said the fruits of this wealth should boost economic growth of this region and its people.
"Our Regions have some of the largest scheduled areas of the country. I reiterate my demand for inclusion of Ho, Bhumij and Mundari languages in the Eighth Schedule of Constitution, the Chief Minister said.
He thanked the Union government for supporting the state during cyclone Fani last year.
After the meeting, Mamata Banerjee told reporters that she highlighted West Bengal issues at the EZC meet where she expressed concern that her state did not get require assistance during natural calamities like cyclone Fani and Bulbul.
She also said Bengal has been neglected in many matters and the state should get its due share in the central pool.
"We have not got Rs 50,000 crore from the Centre," the chief minister said.
Banerjee said she also raised other issues related to her state like delay in GST compensation payment, lowered share in the devolution and other issues hitting the states interest.
Issues relating to development of the states in the region, the need for coal royalty revision, strengthening of infrastructure were also discussed at the EZC meeting, she said.
Apart from the security scenario and vexed Left Wing Extremism (LWE) menace, the EZC meeting also discussed heinous crimes and rail link projects, official sources said.
Addressing the meet, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar reiterated the demand for grant of special category status to the state.
He asserted that despite achieving double digit growth rate in past few years, Bihar is lagging behind on major indices of development like poverty line, per capita income and industrial as well the social and physical infrastructure vis-a-vis the national average while pressing for the special category status demand to the Union Home minister.
Kumar also urged West Bengal and Jharkhand, sharing border with Bihar, to initiate strong measures to stop smuggling of liquor in the state, where prohibition is in force since 2016.
He also urged the Centre to share the expense in deployments of central security forces for dealing with the naxal problem with the state, which at present is solely bearing the cost.
Kumar said curbing naxal menace was joint responsibility of the Centre as well the state while buttressing the demand.
Issues such as inter-state water rows, power transmission lines, royalty and operationalization of coal mines, land & forest clearance of rail projects, investigation of heinous offences and cattle smuggling across countrys borders figured during the ECZ meet, sources said.
Lack of telecom & banking infrastructure in remote areas, petroleum projects and sharing pattern on centrally collected revenues also came up for discussion.

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First Published: Feb 28 2020 | 8:20 PM IST

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