FILE PIC

By A K Sahoo in Bhubaneswar, August 31, 2017: Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik seems to be in cloud nine now. There is no reason why he should not be so for the fact that he has been receiving loads of garlands from different sections of people – starting from slum dwellers to government employees.

The announcement to constitute Tribal Development Councils, grant of record of rights to slum dwellers in urban areas and implementation of the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission are among some of his recent masterstrokes that he has played to hold on to his political clout over the voters.

Of these, the decision to implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations will hit the cash-strapped state government hard.

Already reeling under the stress of low revenue collection, the state government has reportedly gone for Rs 3000 crore loan this fiscal. Implementation of the pay commission report will cost Rs 4.5 lakh crore to the state exchequer.

The Naveen Patnaik government had inherited a debt stock of Rs 18,100.78 crore when it came to power in the year 2000. By December end, 2016, the debt burden had touched Rs 55326.38 crore.

A year-wise assessment of the debt stock gives an impression that the state government is increasingly relying on the borrowings to meet its expenses. In 2001-02, it borrowed Rs 3664.59 crore. In 2015-16, it went for a borrowing of Rs 11625.32 crore which among others included Rs 2424.90 crore funding by National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for infrastructure development.

As the loan burden increases, the state also faces lots of stress on debt servicing. While its debt servicing in 2000-2001 was Rs 2286.81 crore, it shot up to Rs 3343.30 crore.

Similarly on loan repayment front, the state’s performance also remains unimpressive. When it borrowed Rs 7636.54 crore in 2014-15, its loan repayment stood at 3029.40 crore.

In 2015-15, the state’s loan repayment was 2881.37 crore as against a steep borrowing of Rs 11625.32 crore.

Nobody opposes the state government appeasing employees ahead of the 2018 urban polls. However, the moot question here is that why it does not care for the demand of the farmers who have been demanding price, prestige and pension. Had the state government considered the demand of the farmers to give a monthly pension of Rs 1000 pension to farmers, it would not have coughed up much.

The state has around 36 lakh farmers, it means it would have spent at least 3,600 crore. Since nearly 73 per cent of state population is dependent on agriculture, the Naveen Patnaik government should have paid due attention to the farmers’ demand.

The per day average income a farmer in the state is just Rs 19 while the minimum wage of a Group D government employee is now above Rs 600. Such a huge imbalance certainly does not augur well for the state and the BJD government should see the writing on the wall failing which Odisha would once again be pushed to the vicious circle of poverty, impoverishment and bankruptcy.