Gap Is Widening


Changing dynamics between the states and centre is making Naveen Patnaik anxious. Notwithstanding his desire for positive interaction with central leadership, he chose not to allow the District Collectors to attend the meet on aspirational districts organized recently by NITI Aayog.
Odisha Chief Minister is not happy over the manner in which cooperative federalism is being handled now. Naveen is worried as the gap between the centre and the state is widening with BJP led NDA government at the helm. During the three-and-half years of the NDA II regime the relation has soured.
This is not for the first time that the state ruled by a regional party is finding a national party at the centre. The Congress led UPA government was in power at the centre from 2004 to 2014. But the centre-state relationship had never been strained as it has been now even though Naveen had made complaints of central negligence during the UPA regime. Now the state government rarely makes such allegations. However, the gap between the state and the centre has been widening day by day and indications are that it will further worsen in future.
Take the instance of appointment of Prabhari officers for the welfare of backward, tribal dominated and Maoist-hit 115 districts. The centre planned to develop such backward districts. This may be Modi’s noble idea for the welfare of poor people. But the manner in which the policy was made had irked the state governments like Odisha and West Bengal; they boycotted Prime Minister’s meeting on January 4 and 5.
Why did Odisha and West Bengal prefer to boycott NITI Aayog’s scheme? In a federal system, states are the sole owners of districts. When a scheme was made for implementation in a district, the centre should have consulted the state government concerned. This was not done and even views of the states were not taken.
All of a sudden, the centre appointed Prabhari officers on its own for districts without consulting the state. The states felt it as a direct intervention in their rights. The officers in the rank of additional secretaries and joint secretaries were appointed as Prabhari officers even as the state government has already appointed additional chief secretary rank officers to look into the welfare of backward districts.
NITI Aayog bosses wanted a direct access to  District Collectors. For quite some time, NITI Aayog has been trying for this system. However, now with listing “Backward Districts” and plan for their development program, NITI Aayog wanted to enter into MoU with the District Administration.
This approach was considered an encroachment upon the federal structure, feel top brass of the State Administration.
Naveen Patnaik, though heads a regional party and rules the state for over 17 years now, has never missed any opportunity to go along with national mainstream. This is for the first time that the state government decided not to send District Collectors to the Prime Minister’s meeting held at Dr. BR Ambedkar Centre in New Delhi. This shows how the gap between the state and the centre is widening.
In fact, identifying some districts as backward and appointing Officer in Charge (OIC) for the district for its improvement leaves a deep impact on the collective social psyche of the people of the area, feels the Chief Minister.
This is not the lone instance which irked the state. Odisha has other reasons too to resent over the centre’s policies and activities. Ever since the NDA II government came to power, the centre changed sharing pattern of many centrally sponsored schemes, totally stopping the social sector programs like Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), Integrated Action Plan (IAP) Model School and many others.
The state was forced to continue the schemes even as the centre stopped funding or reduced the grants. This has resulted in bleeding of the state exchequer while centre was able to reduce its expenditure. With less flow of central funds to its kitty, Odisha government was forced to go for market borrowings during the last three years.
The Mahanadi water sharing dispute with neighboring Chhattisgarh was a glaring instance of how the centre sided with a BJP ruled state at the cost of 4.5 crore people of BJD ruled Odisha. The centre denied to issue any instructions to Chhattisgarh to stop work on the projects being carried out on upstream of river Mahanadi by violating several laws of the land. The centre even continued to delay formation of a tribunal to resolve the dispute on some pretext or the other.
Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR)’s affidavit to the Supreme Court shows clearly how the centre blindly supported a BJP ruled state. Neither the centre asks Chhattisgarh to stop work nor does it form a tribunal which may issue such a direction to stop such illegal activities. Union Ministers keep on trying to buy time making negation a ploy to resolve the issue.
Similarly, in case of Polavaram, the centre took the side of Andhra Pradesh government which is ruled by TDP, a partner in the NDA.
Even as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has raised the issue with the Prime Minister and the centre, the Polavaram project work progressed in violation of rules and laws of the land. Even Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, who hails from Odisha, in a recent reply in the Parliament, said that no tribal from the state would be affected due to Polavaram project.
Unlike West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her counterpart in Odisha hates “tu-tu mein-mein” type of politics and prefers to work silently. Naveen has never crossed the limit ever since he entered into politics. That is why he is respected at the national level.

However, things are not taking place in the right spirit of federalism, for which Naveen is worried. Though Naveen is open to mutual consultation and a collaborative approach, the gap between the state and the centre is widening with every passing day. 

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