Odisha in 2017: Not much to cheer about
Political heat, strained Centre-state relations, farmer suicides and the Mahanadi river water row marked the year 2017 in Odisha
Political heat, strained Centre-state relations, farmer suicides and the Mahanadi river water row marked the year 2017 in Odisha. In February, the ruling BJD emerged victorious in the panchayat elections. But the BJP put up a improved show with nearly a nine-fold jump in its performance compared to the 2012 rural polls, pushing the Congress to third position. The BJP's performance was equally impressive in zila parishads as it won eight of the 30 district councils. It did not have any zila parishad in its kitty in 2012.
After the rural elections, the state witnessed high- pitched political activities as both the BJD and the BJP geared up amid trading of charges with an eye on the upcoming urban bodies elections due in the new year. The Congress was dogged by disunity and infighting. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, however, was unfazed and said the BJD would review its performance "very seriously" apply suitable correctives both in terms of government and on organisational issues to ensure victory in 2019. However, BJP leaders like Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the rural poll results amply showed growing support for good governance by the Centre and loss of faith in the BJD due to misrule, corruption and inefficiency.
The year saw an aggressive BJP organising a series of programmes, rallies and meetings across Odisha to bolster its prospects. The BJP also held its national executive meeting in Bhubaneswar in April and the top brass including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah attended the event and give a call to the people to oust BJD from power. The BJD government lined up a host of programmes in the state with Patnaik laying foundation stones for new projects and inaugurating many, besides launching numerous welfare schemes for various sections.
The year witnessed souring of relations between the Centre and the state as the ruling BJD often hit out at the BJP-led NDA government accusing it of playing a partisan role on many issues including Mahanadi river water dispute and Polavaram project. The state government charged the Centre with favouring Chhattisgarh on the Mahanadi and Andhra Pradesh on the Polavaram issue. While the BJD launched an agitation and raised the issues in Parliament, the Odisha assembly unanimously passed a
resolution that a House committee with members from all parties will place the demand before the prime minister to constitute a tribunal for resolving Mahanadi river water row.
All through the year, the BJD also attacked the Centre of adopting a step-motherly approach towards the state and slashing funds for many welfare programmes. The charge was refuted by the Centre and BJP leaders who accused the state of failing to utilise central funds. Suicide by farmers rocked the state during the year as
the BJD regime came under attack from opposition BJP and Congress who accused it of failing to mitigate the plight of peasants hit by indebtedness, drought, pest attack and unseasonal rains.
While around 15 farmers committed suicide allegedly due to crop loss caused by pest attack and unseasonal rains during October-November, the state government claimed the peasants ended their lives due to different reasons. The state government maintained it took steps for disbursement of agriculture input subsidy of Rs 718.5 crore to farmers affected by drought, pest attack and unseasonal rain. As per assessment, about 8.5 lakh hectares of crop area in 29 of the 30 district had been affected by these three disasters which hit the farmers during the current year.
Left-wing extremism continued to pose a serious threat in many parts of the state. At least eight districts continued to remain challenging despite improvement in situation in other parts. Industrial scenario remained gloomy amid tardy progress despite the state's claim about attracting lakhs of crores of rupees investments as many projects failed to make headway due to problems relating to land acquisition, bureaucratic red tape and environmental clearances.
The state government was hopeful of adding to its kitty with about Rs 20,000 crore penalty collection from mine owners who indulged in illegal mining and violated several laws including environmental clearance, forest clearance, mining rules and consent to operate norms.
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